I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…
These words breathe the fervour of a heart which has made the surrender to which it would constrain others, and had they been read to us for the first time without context we might have pictured the apostle not dictating a letter, but standing as he does in the cartoon of Raffaelle with uplifted arms pleading with men. We have here —
I. A DEMAND.
1. The living sacrifice stands in contrast with the animals which were slain in order to be presented to God, and the holiness which is to mark it has reference to the Mosaic sacrifices which had to be without spot or blemish. Believers as a royal priesthood are here exhorted to offer that spiritual sacrifice prefigured by the burnt-offering, without which the sacrifice of praise by the lips, and of almsgiving with the substance, will be unacceptable to God. Remember that the expiatory sacrifice has gone before, and by virtue of it only are we priests unto God (Revelation 1:5, 6). When the Jewish priests were consecrated the blood of the sacrifice was applied to the ear, the hand, and the foot, signifying that it needs a blood-stained ear to listen to the Divine commandments, a blood-stained hand to minister before God, a blood-stained foot to tread His courts. So being now consecrated by the blood of the atoning sacrifice, believers are to offer the eucharistic sacrifice of the text.
2. The body does not signify here the whole man. True, the altar on which this victim is offered is the heart, but the reference to the body is not to be frittered away. The body shared largely in the fall, and is to share largely in the redemption. It is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and an instrument in Divine service, and is to be transformed in the likeness of our Lord's glorious body. So, then, we are called upon to present our bodies to God in useful service, and to take heed that it is not withheld or impaired by indolence, allowance of evil habit, or lack of self-discipline.
II. THIS DEMAND IS ENFORCED BY A TWOFOLD PLEA.
1. It is our reasonable service, which has been understood to point a contrast between the Christian sacrifice and those made prior to the Divine command, or those which are superstitious, or mechanical, or carnal. It is enough, however, that the service is dictated by reason in response to a reasonable demand. Granted the apostle's premises, no one can deny the rationality of this his conclusion. Hence sin is identified with folly, and wisdom constantly defined as being the fear of God and the keeping of His commandments.
2. The mercies of God. Note the emphatic "therefore," one of many which constitute the links of an irresistible argument for consecration based upon the mercy of God in Christ. It would be enough to mention God's temporal mercies, but in Paul's view these sink into insignificance compared with God's redeeming mercies, which form the substance of the Epistle.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.