February 19, 2021 | by: 0 Comments|
Reading the regiment of sacrifices in the books of Leviticus and Numbers can be a tough go. I don’t think anyone is ever tempted to want to return to the “good old days” after reading this section of Scripture. Every year I am reminded of this in my annual Bible reading, but please don’t hear a bad attitude with regard to these Bible books. They are after all, God’s holy word, and they are written “for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) I find myself thanking God as I trek through these tedious details in the books of the Law. With each repetition and requirement, my gratitude is centered on the fact that Christ has fulfilled that old system in substance and with full atonement, realities the Law only symbolized. I am thankful that his once-for-all death purchased redemption in full. No, there will never be another sacrifice than that which is found in Christ alone.
When the Apostle Paul issues the call for believers to present their bodies as “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship,” (NASB) he was using temple language which takes us to the sacrificial offerings under the old covenant. Paul was not seeking to restart the old sacrificial system, nor was he hinting at a personal payment for one’s sins, which could never be done. The old system has indeed passed away. A point the writer of Hebrews presses as a major theme of the book, “In speaking of a new covenant, he (God) makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13)
However, we find in Romans 12 that there still is a New Testament sacrificial system. According to R.C. Sproul, “It is not a sacrifice that we give in order to make an atonement, but a sacrifice that we give because an atonement has been made for us. God does not ask us to bring in our livestock and burn it on the altar; he asks us to give ourselves, to put ourselves alive on the altar. To be a Christian means to live a life of sacrifice, a life of presentation, making a gift of ourselves to God.” The motivation to live such a life is always as an expression of gratitude for God’s mercies found in Christ. He has done salvation’s work, all to him we owe.
J. I. Packer in Rediscovering Holiness writes, “The secular world never understands Christian motivation.” Often Christianity is perceived as purely a quid-pro-quo relationship with God. In other words, Christians are in it for the goodies, the blessings, which motivate them to do what they do. To which we would respond that certainly God’s blessings are given to every believer in Jesus, and that these blessings bring joy to our lives. (John 15:11) In Christ, we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3) In Jesus Christ, we have entered a relationship with God in which “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9) But with regard to our ultimate motivation, Packer helps clarify, “From the plan of salvation I learn that the true driving force in authentic Christian living is, and ever must be, not the hope of gain, but the heart of gratitude.” Followers of Jesus Christ are to be a people overflowing with gratitude to God for his abundant grace and mercy upon their lives.
Presenting Our Bodies, Our All
With such a motivation, we are to present our bodies to God as living, holy, and acceptable sacrifices as an ongoing expression of our love and surrender to him. Paul emphasizes our “bodies” are to be presented to God. Truth be known we are probably more influenced by gnostic thought that the New Testament in how we regard our bodies. Gnosticism covers a wide range of thinking, but concludes that the spiritual is good and the physical is bad. Since our bodies are material, therefore our bodies are to be put off, or hindrances that we should escape. Romans 12:1 is an important corrective as believers are called to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God, and that such an act of worship is pleasing to God.
The New Testament describes our bodies as a “humble state” awaiting a transformation at the coming of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:21) Our bodies are dust sown perishable, in dishonor, in weakness, and thus prone to the laws of this fallen world. (I Corinthians 15:42-57) We learn from Paul’s detailed account of a future resurrection that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (I Corinthians 15:50 ESV) Yet, the life we live is through a physical body and earlier in Romans 6, Paul gives instruction on how we are to battle sin through the power of the gospel. Notice Paul’s emphasis on the body:
-We are not to let sin reign in our bodies, Romans 6:12- “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (ESV)
-We are not to present our members (bodies) for sinful purposes- Romans 6:13- “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
-The power of God’s grace in Jesus Christ empowers us to overcome the power of sin with ultimate victory, Romans 6:14- “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
While Paul emphasizes the presentation of our bodies, I believe the application includes the totality of who we are. Thomas Schreiner’s comments are helpful in seeing that the word “bodies” is a reference “to the whole person and stresses that consecration to God involves the whole person…One cannot consign dedication to God to the spirit and neglect the body. Genuine commitment to God embraces every area of life, and includes the body in all of its particularity and concreteness.” Nothing is off limits with regard to our surrender to Christ: our heart, our mind, our eyes, our tongue, our hands, our feet, our dreams, our goals, our plans, and our will.
These thoughts remind me of August 12th which is an important day in my life. August 12th is my mother’s birthday, and it is also the day I was ordained into gospel ministry. I have a little ritual every August 12th as I get down on my knees and thank God for my mother and the indelible impact she has had on my life. I also thank God for the calling and privilege of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. Thirty years ago was my ordination service. In the planning of the service, I was given the opportunity to select hymns that were especially meaningful in my walk with Christ. Frances R. Havergal’s hymn “Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated” came to my mind. The opening stanza reads:
“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse Of Thy love,
At the impulse of Thy love.”
The hymn writer continues in the following stanzas with references to “my feet,” “my voice,” “my silver and my gold,” “my moments and my days,” “my will,” and “my heart,” all to be offered to Christ from one surrendered to him. This captures the command given by the Apostle Paul and what it means to live life on the altar. It is there that we freely and gratefully give to Christ all that we are and hope to be.
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