on Romans 12 :1
I beseech you therefore, brethren - This address is probably intended both for the Jews and the Gentiles; though some suppose that the Jews are addressed in the first verse, the Gentiles in the second.
By the mercies of God! - Δια των οικτιρμων του Θεου· By the tender mercies or compassions of God, such as a tender father shows to his refractory children; who, on their humiliation, is easily persuaded to forgive their offenses. The word οικτιρμος comes from οικτος, compassion; and that from εικω, to yield; because he that has compassionate feelings is easily prevailed on to do a kindness, or remit an injury.
That ye present your bodies - A metaphor taken from bringing sacrifices to the altar of God. The person offering picked out the choicest of his flock, brought it to the altar, and presented it there as an atonement for his sin. They are exhorted to give themselves up in the spirit of sacrifice; to be as wholly the Lord's property as the whole burnt-offering was, no part being devoted to any other use.
A living sacrifice - In opposition to those dead sacrifices which they were in the habit of offering while in their Jewish state; and that they should have the lusts of the flesh mortified, that they might live to God.
Holy - Without spot or blemish; referring still to the sacrifice required by the law.
Acceptable unto God - Ευαρεστον· The sacrifice being perfect in its kind, and the intention of the offerer being such that both can be acceptable and well pleasing to God, who searches the heart. All these phrases are sacrificial, and show that there must be a complete surrender of the person - the body, the whole man, mind and flesh, to be given to God; and that he is to consider himself no more his own, but the entire property of his Maker.
Your reasonable service - Nothing can be more consistent with reason than that the work of God should glorify its Author. We are not our own, we are the property of the Lord, by the right of creation and redemption; and it would be as unreasonable as it would be wicked not to live to his glory, in strict obedience to his will. The reasonable service, λογικην λατρειαν, of the apostle, may refer to the difference between the Jewish and Christian worship. The former religious service consisted chiefly in its sacrifices, which were δι' αλογων, of irrational creatures, i.e. the lambs, rams, kids, bulls, goats, etc., which were offered under the law. The Christian service or worship is λογικη, rational, because performed according to the true intent and meaning of the law; the heart and soul being engaged in the service. He alone lives the life of a fool and a madman who lives the life of a sinner against God; for, in sinning against his Maker he wrongs his own soul, loves death, and rewards evil unto himself.
Reasonable service, λογικην λατρειαν, "a religious service according to reason," one rationally performed. The Romanists make this distinction between λατρεια, and δουλεια, latreia and douleia, (or dulia, as they corruptly write it), worship and service, which they say signify two kinds of religious worship; the first proper to God, the other communicated to the creatures. But δουλεια, douleia, services, is used by the Septuagint to express the Divine worship. See Deuteronomy 13:4; Judges 2:7; 1 Samuel 7:3, and 1 Samuel 12:10 : and in the New Testament, Matthew 6:24; Luke 6:23; Romans 16:18; Colossians 3:24. The angel refused δουλειαν, douleia, Revelation 22:7, because he was συνδουλος sundoulos, a fellow servant; and the Divine worship is more frequently expressed by this word δουλεια, douleia, service, than by λατρεια, latreia, worship. The first is thirty-nine times in the Old and New Testament ascribed unto God, the other about thirty times; and latreia, worship or service, is given unto the creatures, as in Leviticus 23:7, Leviticus 23:8, Leviticus 23:21; Numbers 28:18; yea, the word signifies cruel and base bondage, Deuteronomy 28:48 : once in the New Testament it is taken for the worship of the creatures, Romans 1:25. The worshipping of idols is forbidden under the word λατρεια, latreia, thirty-four times in the Old Testament, and once in the New, as above; and twenty-three times under the term δουλεια, douleia, in the Old Testament; and St. Paul uses δουλευειν Θεὡ, and λατρευειν Θεὡ indifferently, for the worship we owe to God. See Romans 1:9, Romans 1:25; Romans 12:1, Galatians 4:8, Galatians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 6:24. And Ludouicus Vives, a learned Romanist, has proved out of Suidas, Xenophon, and Volla, that these two words are usually taken the one for the other, therefore the popish distinction, that the first signifies "the religious worship due only to God," and the second, "that which is given to angels, saints, and men," is unlearned and false. - See Leigh's Crit. Sacra.
on Romans 12 :1
I beseech you - The apostle, having finished the argument of this Epistle, proceeds now to close it with a practical or hortatory application, showing its bearing on the duties of life, and the practical influence of religion. None of the doctrines of the gospel are designed to be cold and barren speculations. They bear on the hearts and lives of people; and the apostle therefore calls on those to whom he wrote to dedicate themselves without reserve unto God.
Therefore - As the effect or result of the argument or doctrine. In other words, the whole argument of the eleven first chapters is suited to show the obligation on us to devote ourselves to God. From expressions like these, it is clear that the apostle never supposed that the tendency of the doctrines of grace was to lead to licentiousness. Many have affirmed that such was the tendency of the doctrines of justification by faith, of election and decrees, and of the perseverance of the saints. But it is plain that Paul had no such apprehensions. After having fully stated and established those doctrines, he concludes that we ought therefore to lead holy lives, and on the ground of them he exhorts people to do it.
By the mercies of God - The word "by" διὰ dia denotes here the reason why they should do it, or the ground of appeal. So great had been the mercy of God, that this constituted a reason why they should present their bodies, etc. see 1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 15:30. The word "mercies" here denotes favor shown to the undeserving, or kindness, compassion, etc. The plural is used in imitation of the Hebrew word for mercy, which has no singular. The word is not often used in the New Testament; see 2 Corinthians 1:3, where God is called "the Father of mercies;" Philippians 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 10:28. The particular mercy to which the apostle here refers, is that shown to those whom he was addressing. He had proved that all were by nature under sin; that they had no claim on God; and that he had showed great compassion in giving his Son to die for them in this state, and in pardoning their sins. This was a ground or reason why they should devote themselves to God.
That ye present - The word used here commonly denotes the action of bringing and presenting an animal or other sacrifice before an altar. It implies that the action was a free and voluntary offering. Religion is free; and the act of devoting ourselves to God is one of the most free that we ever perform.
Your bodies - The bodies of animals were offered in sacrifice. The apostle specifies their bodies particularly in reference to that fact. Still the entire animal was devoted; and Paul evidently meant here the same as to say, present Yourselves, your entire person, to the service of God; compare 1 Corinthians 6:16; James 3:6. It was not customary or proper to speak of a sacrifice as an offering of a soul or spirit, in the common language of the Jews; and hence, the apostle applied their customary language of sacrifice to the offering which Christians were to make of themselves to God.
A living sacrifice - A sacrifice is an offering made to God as an atonement for sin; or any offering made to him and his service as an expression of thanksgiving or homage. It implies that he who offers it presents it entirely, releases all claim or right to it, and leaves it to be disposed of for the honor of God. In the case of an animal, it was slain, and the blood offered; in the case of any other offering, as the first-fruits, etc., it was set apart to the service of God; and he who offered it released all claim on it, and submitted it to God, to be disposed of at his will. This is the offering which the apostle entreats the Romans to make: to devote themselves to God, as if they had no longer any claim on themselves; to be disposed of by him; to suffer and bear all that he might appoint; and to promote his honor in any way which he might command. This is the nature of true religion.
Living - ζῶσυν zōsun. The expression probably means that they were to devote the vigorous, active powers of their bodies and souls to the service of God. The Jew offered his victim, slew it, and presented it dead. It could not be presented again. In opposition to this, we are to present ourselves with all our living, vital energies. Christianity does not require a service of death or inactivity. It demands vigorous and active powers in the service of God the Saviour. There is something very affecting in the view of such a sacrifice; in regarding life, with all its energies, its intellectual, and moral, and physical powers, as one long sacrifice; one continued offering unto God. An immortal being presented to him; presented voluntarily, with all his energies, from day to day, until life shall close, so that it may he said that he has lived and died an offering made freely unto God. This is religion.
Holy - This means properly without blemish or defect. No other sacrifice could be made to God. The Jews were expressly forbid to offer what was lame, or blind, or in anyway deformed; Deuteronomy 15:21; Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 22:20; Deuteronomy 17:1; compare Malachi 1:8. If offered without any of these defects, it was regarded as holy, that is, appropriately set apart, or consecrated to God. In like manner we are to consecrate to God our best faculties; the vigor of our minds, and talents, and time. Not the feebleness of sickness merely; not old age alone; not time which we cannot otherwise employ, but the first vigor and energies of the mind and body; our youth, and health, and strength. Our sacrifice to God is to be not divided, separate; but it is to be entire and complete. Many are expecting to be Christians in sickness; many in old age; thus purposing to offer unto him the blind and the lame. The sacrifice is to be free from sin. It is not to be a divided, and broken, and polluted service. It is to be with the best affections of our hearts and lives.
Acceptable unto God - They are exhorted to offer such a sacrifice as will be acceptable to God; that is, such a one as he had just specified, one that was living and holy. No sacrifice should be made which is not acceptable to God. The offerings of the pagan; the pilgrimages of the Muslims; the self-inflicted penalties of the Roman Catholics, uncommanded by God, cannot be acceptable to him. Those services will be acceptable to God, and those only, which he appoints; compare Colossians 2:20-23. People are not to invent services; or to make crosses; or to seek persecutions and trials; or to provoke opposition. They are to do just what God requires of them, and that will be acceptable to God. And this fact, that what we do is acceptable to God, is the highest recompense we can have. It matters little what people think of us, if God approves what we do. To please him should be our highest aim; the fact that we do please him is our highest reward.
Which is your reasonable service - The word rendered "service" λατρείαν latreian properly denotes worship, or the homage rendered to God. The word "reasonable" with us means what is "governed by reason; thinking, speaking, or acting conformably to the dictates of reason" (Webster); or what can be shown to be rational or proper. This does not express the meaning of the original. That word λογικὴν logikēn denotes what pertains to the mind, and a reasonable service means what is mental, or pertaining to reason. It stands opposed, nor to what is foolish or unreasonable, but to the external service of the Jews, and such as they relied on for salvation. The worship of the Christian is what pertains to the mind, or is spiritual; that of the Jew was external. Chrysostom renders this phrase "your spiritual ministry." The Syriac, "That ye present your bodies, etc., by a rational ministry."
We may learn from this verse,
(1) That the proper worship of God is the free homage of the mind. It is not forced or constrained. The offering of ourselves should be voluntary. No other can be a true offering, and none other can be acceptable.
(2) we are to offer our entire selves, all that we have and are, to God. No other offering can be such as he will approve.
(3) the character of God is such as should lead us to that. It is a character of mercy; of long-continued and patient forbearance, and it should influence us to devote ourselves to him.
on Romans 12 :1
12:1 I exhort you - St. Paul uses to suit his exhortations to the doctrines he has been delivering. So here the general use from the whole is contained in the first and second verse s. The particular uses follow, from the third verse to the end of the Epistle. By the tender mercies of God - The whole sentiment is derived from Rom. i. - v. The expression itself is particularly opposed to the wrath of God, Rom 1:18. It has a reference here to the entire gospel, to the whole economy of grace or mercy, delivering us from the wrath of God, and exciting us to all duty. To present - So Rom 6:13; 16:19; now actually to exhibit before God. Your bodies - That is, yourselves; a part is put for the whole; the rather, as in the ancient sacrifices of beasts, the body was the whole. These also are particularly named in opposition to that vile abuse of their bodies mentioned, Rom 1:24. Several expressions follow, which have likewise a direct reference to other expressions in the same chapter . A sacrifice - Dead to sin and living - By that life which is mentioned, Rom 1:17; 6:4, and c. Holy - Such as the holy law requires, Rom 7:12. Acceptable - Rom 8:8. Which is your reasonable service - The worship of the heathens was utterly unreasonable, Rom 1:18, and c; so was the glorying of the Jews, Rom 2:3, and c. But a Christian acts in all things by the highest reason, from the mercy of God inferring his own duty.