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Romans 12:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

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.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

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 diadenotes 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;” Philemon 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 zōsunThe 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 latreianproperly 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 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.

(4)it should be done without delay. God is as worthy of such service now as he ever will or can be. He has every possible claim on our affections and our hearts.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle having closed the part of his epistle wherein he argues and proves various doctrines which are practically applied, here urges important duties from gospel principles. He entreated the Romans, as his brethren in Christ, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to Him. This is a powerful appeal. We receive from the Lord every day the fruits of his mercy. Let us render ourselves; all we are, all we have, all we can do: and after all, what return is it for such very rich receivings? It is acceptable to God: a reasonable service, which we are able and ready to give a reason for, and which we understand. Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind; a change, not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul. The progress of sanctification, dying to sin more and more, and living to righteousness more and more, is the carrying on this renewing work, till it is perfected in glory. The great enemy to this renewal is, conformity to this world. Take heed of forming plans for happiness, as though it lay in the things of this world, which soon pass away. Do not fall in with the customs of those who walk in the lusts of the flesh, and mind earthly things. The work of the Holy Ghost first begins in the understanding, and is carried on to the will, affections, and conversation, till there is a change of the whole man into the likeness of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Thus, to be godly, is to give up ourselves to God.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, 224

As our work has extended and institutions have multiplied, God's purpose in their establishment remains the same. The conditions of prosperity are unchanged. 6T 224.1

The human family is suffering because of transgression of the laws of God. The Lord desires that men shall be led to understand the cause of their suffering and the only way to find relief. He desires them to see that their well-being—physical, mental, and moral—depends upon their obedience to His law. It is His purpose that our institutions shall be as object lessons showing the results of obedience to right principles. 6T 224.2

In the preparation of a people for the Lord's second coming a great work is to be accomplished through the promulgation of health principles. The people are to be instructed in regard to the needs of the physical organism and the value of healthful living as taught in the Scriptures, that the bodies which God has created may be presented to Him a living sacrifice, fitted to render Him acceptable service. There is a great work to be done for suffering humanity in relieving their sufferings by the use of the natural agencies that God has provided and in teaching them how to prevent sickness by the regulation of the appetites and passions. The people should be taught that transgression of the laws of nature is transgression of the laws of God. They should be taught the truth in physical as well as in spiritual lines that “the fear of the Lord tendeth to life.” Proverbs 19:23. “If thou wilt enter into life,” Christ says, “keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:17. Live out My law as the apple of thine eye.” Proverbs 7:2. God's commandments, obeyed, are “life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.” Proverbs 4:22. 6T 224.3

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Early Writings, 66-7

Then I was pointed to the glory of heaven, to the treasure laid up for the faithful. Everything was lovely and glorious. The angels would sing a lovely song, then they would cease singing and take their crowns from their heads and cast them glittering at the feet of the lovely Jesus, and with melodious voices cry, “Glory, Alleluia!” I joined with them in their songs of praise and honor to the Lamb, and every time I opened my mouth to praise Him, I felt an unutterable sense of the glory that surrounded me. It was a far more, an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Said the angel, “The little remnant who love God and keep His commandments and are faithful to the end will enjoy this glory and ever be in the presence of Jesus and sing with the holy angels.” EW 66.1

Then my eyes were taken from the glory, and I was pointed to the remnant on the earth. The angel said to them, “Will ye shun the seven last plagues? Will ye go to glory and enjoy all that God has prepared for those who love Him and are willing to suffer for His sake? If so, ye must die that ye may live. Get ready, get ready, get ready. Ye must have a greater preparation than ye now have, for the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it. Sacrifice all to God. Lay all upon His altar—self, property, and all, a living sacrifice. It will take all to enter glory. Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where no thief can approach or rust corrupt. Ye must be partakers of Christ's sufferings here if ye would be partakers with Him of His glory hereafter.” EW 66.2

Heaven will be cheap enough, if we obtain it through suffering. We must deny self all along the way, die to self daily, let Jesus alone appear, and keep His glory continually in view. I saw that those who of late have embraced the truth would have to know what it is to suffer for Christ's sake, that they would have trials to pass through that would be keen and cutting, in order that they may be purified and fitted through suffering to receive the seal of the living God, pass through the time of trouble, see the King in His beauty, and dwell in the presence of God and of pure, holy angels. EW 67.1

Read in context »
Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 352

No mortal eye but that of the high priest was to look upon the inner apartment of the sanctuary. Only once a year could the priest enter there, and that after the most careful and solemn preparation. With trembling he went in before God, and the people in reverent silence awaited his return, their hearts uplifted in earnest prayer for the divine blessing. Before the mercy seat the high priest made the atonement for Israel; and in the cloud of glory, God met with him. His stay here beyond the accustomed time filled them with fear, lest because of their sins or his own he had been slain by the glory of the Lord. PP 352.1

The daily service consisted of the morning and evening burnt offering, the offering of sweet incense on the golden altar, and the special offerings for individual sins. And there were also offerings for Sabbaths, new moons, and special feasts. PP 352.2

Every morning and evening a lamb of a year old was burned upon the altar, with its appropriate meat offering, thus symbolizing the daily consecration of the nation to Jehovah, and their constant dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ. God expressly directed that every offering presented for the service of the sanctuary should be “without blemish.” Exodus 12:5. The priests were to examine all animals brought as a sacrifice, and were to reject every one in which a defect was discovered. Only an offering “without blemish” could be a symbol of His perfect purity who was to offer Himself as “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:19. The apostle Paul points to these sacrifices as an illustration of what the followers of Christ are to become. He says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1. We are to give ourselves to the service of God, and we should seek to make the offering as nearly perfect as possible. God will not be pleased with anything less than the best we can offer. Those who love Him with all the heart, will desire to give Him the best service of the life, and they will be constantly seeking to bring every power of their being into harmony with the laws that will promote their ability to do His will. PP 352.3

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