“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1
I am addressing you, covenant young people, as those who have been promised the Holy Spirit no less than it was promised to your parents. If I did not address you as such, could not address you as such, you would not even be fit people to address. In a word, you would be as the children of this world: uncircumcised Philistines, outside of the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.
But now I do address you as “brethren” in the Lord Jesus, as those of whom God is not ashamed to be called your God, whereas He has prepared for you a city! You belong to that peculiar people, that royal priesthood, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.
So take the shoes from off your feet with me and draw near and hear this beautiful admonition from God’s Word.
Now I will ask you a very important question. Did you know, and do you realize, that you, in distinction from the children and young people of the world, are called and exhorted to walk as reborn children of God? Is it not blazoned upon every page of Scripture to you as well as to your parents and grandparents: “be ye holy because I (am) holy” I Peter 1: 16; Lev. 19:2; 20:7 That is your and my privilege and sacred duty in our liberty in Christ.
Another question I would ask you: do you realize that this call to a holy walk follows from God’s sovereign and all-wise counsel, because we have been elected from eternity in Christ, ere the worlds were made by the Word of God? Do you realize that this election in turn is rooted in God’s having foreordained us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ, and that God adopted us unto Himself to be children who live unto the praise of the glory of God’s grace? If not then read carefully and prayerfully Ephesians 1:3-5.
We who have been adopted into God’s family must know that this is the will of our heavenly Father “even our sanctification. . . . ” (I Thess. 4: 3) God did not call us efficaciously out of sin’s dominion that we should live in fleshly uncleanness, but He has called us unto holiness. (I Thess. 4:7) Now the marvelous thing is, in this mystery of God, that this calling to live a holy life flows forth from the sovereign election of God, and that these fruits in our life are the infallible fruits of election, by which we make our calling and election sure. (I1 Peter 1:5-10) This great truth of the Bible is sometimes miserably
misunderstood by God’s people; not seldomly is this grace of election neglected, or what is worse, trifled with by young as well as by the older in the congregation. Then the just judgment of God comes upon such rash presumption, such idle trifling with the grace of election. (Canons I, 13b) Then people turn the Scriptures to their own destruction, saying: let us sin, that grace may abound, whose judgment from God is just. (Romans 3:8) Such carelessly and blatantly affirm: let us do evil that good may come forth.
Now all such wanton babbling is cut off with one stroke of the Holy Spirit when He connects our sanctified walk of dedication to God, when He joins our “reasonable service” with the great and rich and sovereign mercies of God! It is the Lord’s mercies that we are saved, and it is the Lord’s mercies that we are kept in the faith, and it is the Lord’s tender mercies, His bowels of compassion that we are not consumed. (Lam. 3:22) The Lord will have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. (Lam. 3:32) Only because of these sovereign mercies can and will we be walking in godliness, presenting our bodies a living sacrifice to God, holy acceptable to God. It is of these mercies, of these bowels of compassion that Paul speaks repeatedly: (I Cor. 1:3) God is called the Father of all mercies and of all consolation, and in His fear we are to put on bowels of mercy and compassion toward one another. (Phil. 2:1; Col. 3: 12)
God’s mercy is a sovereign mercy upon the vessels of mercy! Salvation is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who shows mercy. That is the great lesson of the ages. Moses needed to learn that lesson profoundly at Sinai after the making of the golden calf. (Ex. 33: 19; Rom. 9:15) Wherefore, when Paul united our walk of godliness with the overflowing of the “mercies” of God he cuts off all human and wicked pride.
On the one hand, this cuts off all possibility of work-holiness, all attempts by works, and thus purges the last vestiges of the leaven of Phariseeism from our thinking and aspirations. Paul underscores here the great truth of the warning of Jesus to His disciples “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”. (Matt. 16:6, 12; Luke 12: 1) This teaching of the Pharisees is like an evil leaven; it permeates all the doctrines of Scripture, making man and not God the author of salvation. Then justification is based upon a holy walk of man’s achievements and not sanctification based on the justification in the blood of atonement, the perfect righteousness of the crucified Lamb of God. But when connected with these “mercies of God” all is sovereign elective mercy. And also, the exhortation is based upon the doctrine of elective mercy.
On the other hand, this connecting of the exhortation to walk in godliness, presenting our bodies a living sacrifice, cuts off all vain prattling, ruling out exhortations, precepts of the Gospel, the Law of the Kingdom of heaven as a rule, goad and incentive by the Spirit unto good words. For then the basis of all exhortations becomes for us what Christ has merited for us on the Cross and what He has wrought for our salvation in His mighty resurrection in which is powerfully revealed the Son of God. Here we must not attempt to equate this with God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility as if they were a contradiction and an insoluble mystery. But here we have God’s sovereign love and mercy, and His sovereign will to effectuate this work in our life and walk. For here is not the law which works wrath, but the precepts of the Gospel, which the Holy Spirit so uses that they are His means of grace. These are what God has joined together in His wisdom for our salvation and, therefore, we must not tempt God in the church by separating these two: the working of God’s grace and the means of grace. For all the glory is God’s both in the means and in the fruit.
Now this may have taxed your thinking just a bit, my youthful reader. You may have to read it two or three times, and do a little reflecting on it, and praying about it. But I did not write the Bible. And I cannot water it down very much, can I? And I may not dilute it either, may I?
Now take your Bible in hand once more. What do you see? You will see that Paul begins this text as the start of a new section in this great letter to the Romans. But in beginning he connects what he will say here with what he has taught in the first eleven chapters. Really all is summed up in the grand doxology in Rom. ll:32ff. “For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” And then that final verse “for out of him, and through him, and unto him are all things: to whom be glory and honor forever”. (Rom. 11:36) Yes, all are under sin, all come short of the glory of God. There is none that doeth good, Jew or Greek. Then Paul shows the marvel of grace in Christ, without works of law. (Rom. 3:19, 20 and 20-31) And now Paul will show what this means for the life of sanctification and godliness for an erstwhile heathen people, who had used their bodies in the service of idolatry and fornication, yes, in all kinds of homo-sexuality, sodomy and lesbianism. But now they are to present their bodies not in the brothels of sin, but in the service of God, upon God’s altar of total consecration.
This is a call to “service”. This means that they are to place their members, their bodies, their eyes, ears, hands, feet, mouth in the public and reverential service of the heavenly temple of God. For this temple of God are we, the church! The covenant young people are living members of this church, living stones in the temple of God. Here alone they can and do remember their Creator, saying: I believe in God, the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.
Such is our reasonable service.
This service is reasonable. The Greek term real speaks of a logical service. There is a certain divine logic in Scripture in connection with God’s sovereign mercies and the Christian walk of the believers. It is the logic of God’s holiness which requires us to be holy. It is the logic of a consistent pattern. Such is the logic of the “therefore” in this text. It is the logic which is the very opposite of the “logic” of sin. The logic of sin is that one is under law and the curse of the law, and that the law is the power of sin, and that sin can only become more sinful by the commandment. But here is the logic of grace, whereby we are no longer under the dominion of sin. It is the logic of the free-gift of grace, whereby we rule by one Jesus Christ unto life eternal. It is the logic of no longer being a servant of sin, but that now we obey a form of doctrine whereunto we have been delivered. (Rom. 6:13) It is the logic of Christ’s resurrection life, as this follows from Christ’s having died unto sin and from Christ; who now lives unto God. It is the logic of clinging to the Head Christ from whom all the body fitly framed together makes increase by every joint which supplies, so that every member is perfected finally in his own place in the Body in final glory.
That is the logic of not conforming to this world, but being completely transformed into the perfection of the upward calling in Christ Jesus. This is no mere morality; it is not legal precepts, but it is obedience to the Gospel-precepts in Christ Jesus, by which we are more and more conformed to the image of God.
Such are the powerful and sovereign mercies of God by which we present our bodies holy to God, an acceptable offering, well-pleasing in God’s sight. It is the new life of heaven here upon earth, a life of thankfulness to God for His great redemption.