Romans 12:1
Spiritual Worship is Bodily Worship

Truth Contenders Sunday School Class
Two Rivers Baptist Church
Nashville, TN, USA

For Sunday, 14 March 2004

Handout: Spiritual Worship is Bodily Worship


Blue: word from text to be discussed or defined

Green: on handout

Ink: to be filled in on handout

Purple: Greek word


Chapter 12 begins the practical section of the book. Not that the doctrinal section is impractical; but while it focused on understanding, this focuses on practice. A better understanding of who God is, what the world is, and who you are, is indispensable to a more holy life.

Beseech, Urge, Appeal: a call to action with a sense of urgency.

Therefore: the following is a conclusion based specifically on what went before. Because the foregoing is true, the following is what we must do. In this case he is saying, do what I'm about to tell you because:

1-3 · of how deeply we are fallen
4 · we are made right with God by means of faith alone
5 · we are united with Christ
6 · he has destroyed the body of sin
7 · our flesh is weak even while we trust in Christ
8 · we are secure in Christ, confident that he will bring us to glory
9 · he is a faithful covenant keeper
10-11 · he is able to unite people of all nations in his body

Recently, I heard a prominent evangelical leader interview a prominent national talk-show host on the evangelical's radio show. The talk-show host stated that man is not predisposed to sin, and that the cause of immoral behavior is merely the failure of our society to acknowledge that right and wrong are real and absolute. Incredibly, the evagelical leader agreed with him! That's flat out Pelagian heresy. Even a good Roman Catholic could technically be excommunicated for saying a thing like that. A supposedly conservative protestant leader ought to be reprimanded for it, and I hope he was by his pastor or someone with spiritual authority. Unless we believe that unregenerate people are dead in their trespasses and sins, nevermind predisposed to sin, we don't believe the scriptures. Without a solid doctrinal foundation, we will never live the Christian life spelled out to us by Paul in the rest of this epistle, because we will be susceptible to being blown about by every windbag on the radio.

"Ethics must rest upon the foundation of redemptive accomplishment. ...ethics springs from union with Christ and therefore from participation in the virtue belonging to him and exercised by him as the crucified, risen, and ascended Redeemer. Ethics consonant with the high calling of God in Christ is itself part of the application of redemption... it is not as if ethics is distinct from doctrine. For ethics is based on ethical teaching and teaching is doctrine." - John Murray, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Romans

By the mercies of God: Our greatest motivation! "Tender mercies, ...the riches of his compassion."1 - John Murray. II Cor 5:14-15 says, "For the love of Christ compels us ...that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." (NKJV)

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice:

  1. Correlates Old Testament with New. Same God, same religion, new era.

    The religious practice God prescribed for Israel in the Old Testament revolved around the presentation of sacrifices. The once-for-all sacrifice of Christ abolished that system by fulfilling what it had represented by types and shadows. (See the book of Hebrews.) Nevertheless, Christianity continues to be a religion of sacrifices. That's because it is still the same religion as the one detailed in the book of Leviticus.

    Does that sound shocking? It's common in our time for Christians to suppose that the religion of Old Testament Israel was abolished by Christ and a new one, Christianity, established by him and his apostles. It's true that Judaeism had become corrupted by the time of Christ, and that he criticized its leaders. But so had the prophets done hundreds of years prior. The criticism of the prophets and of Christ himself was over the corruption of the religion God had set forth at the time of Moses, not over the religion itself. Christians worship the same God as Old Testament Israel was to worship. The New Testament does not give us a new religion, Christianity in place of Judaeism. It gives us a New Covenant with the same God, in the context of the same religion. That's why Paul calls believers "true Jews," "true Israel," and "the true circumcision." We live in a new era under a new covenant, one which more fully reveals the meaning of the Old Covenant, clears up many of its mysteries, and makes major changes to the outward cultic practices. But it is a continuation of the same religion, the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Isaiah, and so on.

    So, while we no longer sacrifice animals since Christ made the perfect sacrifice, we still present sacrifices in effectively the same way, and, with respect to our worship of God, for the same purpose. The New Testament presentation of our bodies as living sacrifices is really the same as the Old Testament animal sacrifices, except that no new blood need be shed now. Dr. Gordon J. Wenham, senior professor of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire, England, says, " essential feature of every sacrifice is the placing of the worshiper's hand on the animal's head. This action declares that the animal is taking the place of the worshiper. The worshiper is giving himself entirely to God by identifying himself with the animal; the animal is dying instead of the worshiper."2 You might ask, if Christ made the perfect sacrifice once for all, why do I still have to sacrifice my body? That misses the point that the sacrifice is a substitute -- those who trust Christ have, so to speak, placed their hand on his head, showing that he is their substitute. Just as the lamb died in place of the Israelite worshiper, as a sign of worship by the living person who presented it, so Christ died so that we might live, but no longer to ourselves. We live for the One who, by rights, should have killed us for our sin. That's why Paul tells us that we are to sacrifice our bodies -- not in the crass way of lying on an altar and committing suicide, of course, but by laying aside our own desires and plans for our bodies and yielding ourselves up to God exclusively for the purpose of serving Him.

  2. The first step in worship: sacrifice your body. That is what Christ did. We are to follow him in that act, but we do it in a different way, as living sacrifices.
  3. Living:
    1. Alive
      1. As opposed to the slain animal sacrifices. The dead cannot praise God (Ps. 115:17). Not merely medically alive, but living life. Present your bodies as sacrifices that are going about the activities of living. "Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering." (MSG) I Cor 10:31
      2. As distinguished from the body of sin which is destroyed, crucified with Christ. We are to present our resurrected selves to God, for only in the spirit can we truly serve Him. The flesh profits nothing. (Romans 6:13)
    2. Perpetual or unending, as opposed to the momentary animal sacrifices. Not something we do from time to time at church, at an altar call, but a way of life.3 (Charles Hodge)
  4. Your body is important spiritually.
    1. It plays a significant role in your salvation. The goal of redemption is "a new heavens and a new earth, not just a bunch of saved souls." (Ken Myers, host of the Mars Hill Audio Journal) This includes redeemed bodies. I Cor 6:13-20; Romans 8:10-23; II Cor 5:10.4 (John Murray)
    2. Our contemporary culture seeks ways to transcend the body (in technological, pharmaceutical, spiritual, and paranormal ways). Often there is an unspoken assumption (and sometimes a spoken one) that the body is a cage, a restriction from which we are better freed. Christianity affirms the goodness of the gift of embodiment, while not denying the detriments caused by the curse. Your body is an integral part of your identity. Without your body, you can't do anything, and doing good is the essence of true religion. (Jas 1:26-27)
    3. Romans 6:13 (body parts as instruments of righteousness), 16 (obedience ["is the very best way..."]), 19 (sanctification through slavery of body parts to righteousness). (after a sermon by John Piper)
    4. The bodies we present are members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor 6:15, 19)

Holy: when applied to sacrifices, means "without blemish, free from defects which would cause an offering to be rejected."5 (Charles Hodge) How can this be true of our bodies? The opposite of holy is defiled, which is characteristic of the body of sin and with sensual lust.6 (John Murray)

Acceptable to God: pleasing, delightful, as a sweet smelling aroma.7 (Charles Hodge) Again, this echoes the sacrificial system under the Law, but in a new light. Whereas holiness is the fundamental character of believers, being well-pleasing to God is our governing principle.8 (John Murray)

Reasonable, Spiritual:

  1. Greek logikhen, from logos (pertaining to the mind: thought, consideration, taking into account, answer or explanation, cause or ground), from lego (to lay forth). Expressive, rational, thoughtful. Service is a form of worship that enlists our minds. "We are not 'Spiritual' in the biblical sense except as the use of our bodies is characterized by conscious, intelligent, consecrated devotion to the service of God."9 (John Murray) A great book addressing the issue of the frequent shallowness of Evangelical thought is Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It, by Os Guinness.
  2. Contrasts with mechanical externalism (as in Judaeism). To be true worship, the sacrifice of our body to God's service must be made first and foremost from the heart, not from ritual habit. But be careful not to confuse externalism with formality. All service to God must take some form, and should be well planned when possible. (I Cor 14:33, "God is not the author of confusion.") Sometimes the Spirit prompts us to an act of spontaneous service, but spontaneity is not a virtue in itself. In Creation and in Redemption, God models for us the principle that thoughtful planning and proceeding according to a well-laid plan are virtuous. We are not God, and the best laid plans of mice and men may go awry. But to fail to plan is to plan to fail.

Service, (act of) Worship: Greek word is latreia, the service rendered by a menial to his master. You want to serve God? Start here: you are nobody.

Use your mind to direct your body to serve God -- that is spiritual worship in a nutshell.

Discussion: In what ways does bodily self-sacrifice play out in day-to-day living?

Prayer: Lord, my body is yours. Do with it as you see fit.

Recommended reading:

David J. Finnamore
Orlando, FL