Romans (23): Living Sacrifices (Rom. 12)
Romans 12: An Exposition (23) - Living Sacrifices
All Saints * Dr. Gregg Strawbridge * November 30, 2008
Therefore I exhort you, brethren, by the great mercy of God, to present yourselves (pl.) [as a person (soma)] as a living sacrifice [sing. offering], set apart and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual (temple) service. 12:2 And do not be conformed (syschematizo) to this present age (aion), but be transformed (metamorphoo) by renewing your mind, so that you discern what is the will of God—that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Living the Mercy of God - In chapter 11, we saw the “great mercy” of God in our salvation. Gentiles are wild olive branches grafted into the covenant tree. Therefore be grateful, not prideful. In chapter 12, we (like Israel) are living sacrifices/offerings morphing by renewal through the Word. This is our liturgy or “the temple worship” (latreia, 9:4, NIV), not a metaphor. Rather, the slaughtered animals of the OT/temple are the metaphor, the illustration, the picture. God has always sought those who “worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23). He has been about restoring a new Adam & Eve in His presence. But after the fall “flaming swords” (fire and knives) are necessary to pass back through the labyrinth into the Garden (Gen 3:24). We are an offering.
Living as Sacrifices - “All religious rituals spring from the surrogate victim, and all the great institutions of mankind, both secular and religious, spring from ritual...” (Girard). Since the fall and at the fall we try to “outsource” sacrifice. We all want scapegoats and we all blame-shift. (“It was the woman thou gavest me,” says every Adam.) We are often defensive and unable to distinguish our responsibility from Eve’s culpability. Now as Christians, we must no longer “outsource.” We must “insource” our sacrifice. Paul, after showing in detail how Jesus fulfills Torah precisely as the only true human sacrifice (Rom. 3:25ff), now explains how we live “as Christians.” We follow Christ (especially remember ch. 8). We become conformed to Him (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:10). We also offer ourselves through worship and service in the new humanity that enters Eden/Zion above through the second Adam. As we share with others this truth, we see who we are.
Living as Self-Sacrificing - The rest of ch. 12 shows us the contours of a self-sacrificial way of life. First, none of us should think we’re a superior hunk of sacrificial meat, and so do “not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). Secondly, we are part of a “body” (a man/a’dam). We should see others as refracted gleams of God’s image, like stones of fire in the Garden, living stones being glorified (Rom. 12:4; 2Cor. 3:18). Thirdly, we know that we are that new humanity (Eph. 2:15), living as reflectors of God’s image, when we do what the Triune God does eternally, so dramatically shown in redemption - to love. We must love one another, just as the Triune God has loved One Another and Christ loved us (Rom. 12:9). Love requires a self-sacrificial response to wrongdoing (Rom. 12:17). What does love do when it is wronged? It takes the wrong and gives back good. Not forever though, finally, there is a sacrifice rendered from the wicked offender - “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Rom. 12:19). In the mean time, we can use the simple Pauline proverb, “overcome evil with good.” Teach your children this with this simple statement in the midst of childish problems, so that they can grow up in to all of the sacrificial realities.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more