A Living Sacrifice

living sacrifice (2)

b) Rom 12:1: In most of his letters, the Apostle Paul communicated the truth of the gospel, as here in Rom 1–11, before turning to how we should respond.[1]

This well-known verse—which succinctly depicts a Christian’s reaction to God’s gracious mercy—[2] serves as the hinge for the ethical section of Romans in chapters 12–15. Accordingly, Paul began by writing, “therefore.”

Principles of Christian behavior arise from our theology. For example, our obedience flows from our gratitude for all that Christ has done for us (Rom 11:30–36; Luke 7:40–50),[3] as well as from what the Holy Spirit does in us (Phil 2:12–13).[4]

Consequently, Paul authoritatively exhorted the Roman believers to live in accordance with the gospel which they received.[5] He gave specific instructions to obey in Rom 12:3–15:13.[6]

But first, he called them “brothers [and sisters]” in order to strengthen his bond with these believers,[7] most of whom he had never met.[8]

He then compared a life of Christian integrity to sacrificial rituals in which we comprise the offerings.[9]

Earlier in this letter, Paul employed the same term (paristēmi) in his call to the Romans to present their bodies to the Lord as instruments of righteousness (Rom 6:11–19).

                Although paristēmi in terms of a sacrifice occurs nowhere in the New Testament apart from Romans,[10] Greco-Roman works often attest that usage.[11]

For example, Xenophon (430–354 BC) wrote, “He accordingly brought two victims to the altar and proceeded to offer sacrifice (paristēmi) to King Zeus.”[12]

Josephus (37–100 AD) asserted, “Archelaus, lest he should be in danger of not being thought the genuine son of Herod, began his reign with the murder of three thousand citizens; as if he had a mind to offer (paristēmi) so many bloody sacrifices to God for his government, and to fill the temple with the like number of dead bodies at that festival.”[13]

In Rom 12:1, “your bodies” (sōma) refers to the entire self, rather than merely to the physical frame (Cf. Rom 6:13; Eph 5:28).[14]

How we behave works in concert with how we think (Rom 12:2).[15]

As I frequently told my daughters, “If people’s words and actions don’t conform to each other, their behavior will tell you what they really believe.”

Paul called his readers to offer all that we are to God.[16]

We honor him by displaying the fruit of the Spirit as we eat, engage others in conversation, work, study, and even play. Those walking in tune with God’s Spirit aim for a life of continuous worship directed toward the one who created and redeemed us (Gal 5:22–26; Eph 5:15–21; Col 3:17, 23–24).[17]

In contrast, Scripture strongly condemned the mere outward ritual of performing sacrifices, even before the coming of Christ (Ps 51:16–17; Isa 1:11–17; Amos 5:21–24).[18]

The Lord accepted only those sacrifices which people offered from a pure heart (Ps 24:1–6).[19]

Due to the once-for-all-time sufficiency of Jesus’s atoning death,[20] God no longer requires animal bloodshed (Heb 9:11–14). Instead, we offer ourselves as “living sacrifices,”[21] passing from self-rule to the possession of the one who receives our offering.

After dying with and being raised with Christ,[22] we become God’s property (Rom 6:3–5).[23]

The Jewish philosopher Philo (20 BC–40 AD) noted, “The sacrifice when once placed on the altar, is no longer the property of the person who has offered it, but belongs to that Being to whom the victim is sacrificed.”[24]

The Lord does not demand something from us. He desires us.[25]

Paul’s description of the type of sacrifice meshes with tabernacle and temple practices. The animals were still alive when brought before God (Lev 1:5), they were holy (Lev 6:24–27), and—since they were without defect—the Lord accepted them (Lev 1:3–4).[26]

While “holy” (hagios) can mean “set apart” for service,[27] it also carries the nuance of “pure, perfect, worthy of God.”[28]

Thus, over time, believers should experience increasing conformity to life shaped by the Holy Spirit.[29]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Read Rom 12:1. In light of what Jesus has done for us, what is our reasonable response? How do Old Testament sacrificial practices affect your understanding of life as a believer?

 

 

 

Go to Transformed Minds

 

[Related posts include Oh, the Depth of the Riches of God! (Rom 11:33‒36); Transformed Minds (Rom 12:2); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Sin Lies Stretched Out (Gen 4:6‒7); Instruments of Righteousness (Rom 6:12‒14); Delivered from this Body of Death (Rom 7:14–25); Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14); Redemption through Christ’s Blood (Eph 1:7–8); Unity in the Spirit (Eph 5:18–21); Submissive to One Another (Eph 5:21–24); Sacrificial Love (Eph 5:25–30); Obtaining Eternal Redemption (Heb 9:11–14); By Faith (Heb 11:4); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]

 

[1] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:596.

[2] Moo, Romans, 393–4.

[3] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:59–6.

[4] Moo, Romans, 394.

[5] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:597.

[6] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 708.

[7] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 284. In Greek, a masculine plural can apply to a group of men or to one of mixed gender.

[8]Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 4.

[9] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 284.

[10] Danker et al., “παριστημι” (paristēmi), BDAG, 778. Confirmed by a Logos 7 word study.

[11] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:598.

[12]Xenophon, Anabasis (vol. 3 of Xenophon in Seven Volumes; LCL; trans. Carleton L. Brownson; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann, 1922), 1.6.22, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0202%3Abook%3D6%3Achapter%3D1%3Asection%3D22.

[13]Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, in The Works of Flavius Josephus (trans. William Whiston; Auburn and Buffalo, NY: Beardsley, 1895), 2.89, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0148%3Abook%3D2%3Awhiston%20chapter%3D6%3Awhiston%20section%3D2.

[14] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:598.

[15] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 284.

[16]John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (trans. John Owen; Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 452.

[17] Moo, Romans, 397–8.

[18] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 710.

[19] Moo, Romans, 395–6.

[20] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 284.

[21] Moo, Romans, 394.

[22]Schreiner, Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 252.

[23] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:599.

[24]Philo, “On Animals Fit for Sacrifice,” in The Works of Philo, Vol. 3 (trans. Charles Duke Yonge; London: Bohn, 1855), 221, https://archive.org/stream/worksofphilojuda03phil#page/220/mode/2up.

[25] Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 285.

[26] Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 462.

[27] Moo, Romans, 394.

[28] Danker et al., “′αγιος” (hagios), BDAG, 11.

[29] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:601.