“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see this language used when the people of God would bring their sheep and bulls and offer them on an altar to God. This was done to make atonement for their sins. Sin demanded a life-punishment and their sacrifices allowed them to be accepted by God. But we know from the Bible that the blood of bulls cannot take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Thank God that these sacrifices pointed to Christ, the Passover Lamb, who would be a final sacrifice for all. Through faith, we are covered by the blood of Christ and we cannot add to His work.
So then, what does Paul mean?
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22
Bodies. When the Israelites sacrificed animals, they did so out of obedience. Likewise, when we sacrifice our bodies, we do so in obedience to Christ. We belong to God, both body and soul. It doesn’t matter if your body is socially deemed unattractive, wrinkled, or awkward, it is accepted by God through Christ (Romans 12:1). God demands our bodies because by them we are used for His glory. By our bodies we carry the gospel and we use our gifts and we make disciples. Our bodies are instruments and our bodies house the Spirit of God.
Living Sacrifice. A living, sacrificed body is a body that lives in worship. It is a body that denies itself earthly treasures and seeks first the Kingdom of God. This living body is an outward expression of our heart and it reveals that we have no treasure but God; that Christ is more cherished and prized to us than anything else. Our living bodies reflect the mercy and the glory of God. We sacrifice our bodies by dying to self and living for Christ.
Holy and Acceptable to God. A body is holy not because of what it looks like or the strength of its immune system, but by the Spirit living inside of it and the fruit that it bears. Doing good is a pleasing sacrifice to God (Hebrews 13:16); Giving is a pleasing sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:18); Praise is a pleasing sacrifice to God (Hebrews 13:15). Our bodies are made holy as we dedicate them to God’s good purposes, in the name of Jesus Christ. This is important: we are holy and we are accepted.
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
We are called to live lives worshipping God and honoring Christ in our bodies (Philippians 1:20). The reason our bodies and our holiness hold significance is because they point to the Creator. We live in obedience to God to make Him known. We live in mercy to point to the One who has shown us great mercy. We live in worship to join creation in the praises of the Creator. We live in bodies to reflect the glory of God, just as Christ lived in a body and died, that God would be glorified (John 21:19) and that we would be accepted by Him.
Bodies matter. And these physical bodies, because of Christ’s physical sacrifice, lead to new spiritual bodies that love and adore Him.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
This is our spiritual worship.