Read verses 1-2
Q: Is this a commandment which Paul is giving?
A: Paul doesn’t say, “I command you” but rather, “I urge you”. This calling is qualified as “by the mercies of God”, an appeal to act from the heart based on what God has already done for us, not what we have done for Him.
Point: Christians do not serve Christ in order to obtain His mercies, but because they already have them.
Q: How does Paul characterize true Christian service and living? Where does it begin?
A: It begins with personal dedication to the Lord.
Q: And in the imagery he is using, WHERE is Paul depicting as the place it begins?
A: To the reader of Paul’s time, the reference to presenting a sacrifice and the notion of “spiritual service” would have described the altar where such things took place in the time of the temple.
Point: The Christian who fails in life is the one who fails at the altar, refusing to surrender completely to Christ.
Q: Why might King Saul be an example to us of what it means to “fail at the altar”?
A; He became impatient waiting for Samuel at the altar. (1 Sam. 13) Taking things into his own hands, he neither followed God’s original instructions and offered the wrong offering nor did he follow the Law by waiting for it to be performed by Samuel. He failed at the altar and it cost him his kingdom. [Note: Cain is another example.]
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
— Matthew 5:23-24
Point: The motive for our service and dedication is supposed to be love. Our love for God is proved in our love for others, so the quality of our service is a direct reflection of our love for others.
Q: What are the similarities and differences to the Old Testament standards of sacrifices to this description of “a living and holy sacrifice”?
A: The contrast is that Old Testament sacrifices weren’t “living” but slain and consumed exclusively for God. Spiritually we’re to identify with being dead in Christ and exclusively His going forward. The similarity is that all sacrifices, in order to be deemed “acceptable to God” must be holy, that is free from blemish and perfect according to His Word. It’s a teaching to be rid of sin and dedicated exclusively to His Word and ways.
Q: How is this offering accomplished on a practical level?
A: It’s the daily yielding of the body to Christ, having the mind renewed by the Word, and surrendering the will through prayer and obedience. This is the true dedication of presenting one’s body, mind, and will to God day by day.
Q: What is implied in v.2 about all Christians? What are the two kinds of person we can be?
A: We can either be “conformers” – living for and like the world, or “transformers” – daily becoming more like Christ.
Q: Is this specific word “transformed” used in other places in Scripture?
- It’s the same word translated “transfigure” in Matthew 17:2 to describe what happened to Christ on what we call the “Mount of Transfiguration”.
- It’s how Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 3:18 we are transformed (transfigured) as we allow the Spirit to reveal Christ through the Word of God.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
— 2 Corinthians 3:18
Q: So what might be the primary cause for not knowing God’s will for one’s life?
A: It’s associated with those not fully dedicated personally to Christ.
Note: This doesn’t mean we automatically know, minute-to-minute, the exact mind and plans of God, but that our faithfulness and dedication engenders trust that we are on His path regardless of earthly feelings or circumstances.
Q: In a consumer-oriented society like ours, products are often presented as “good”, “better”, and “best”. Is this the same for God’s will?
A: No, the label “good” attached here is further qualified as being “acceptable and perfect”. The picture is one of growing in our appreciation for God’s will.
Point: Some Christians obey God because they know obedience is “good” for them and they fear chastening; others obey because they find God’s will to be “acceptable”; the deepest devotion, however, is in those who come to love God’s will and find it “perfect”.
Q: Going back to the fact that this is all being described as taking place at the altar, what other parallel is this drawing between those who served God according to the Old Testament Law and those who now do so according to the New Testament?
A: The members of the body of Christ have each been designated as priests, replacing the Levitical priesthood and therefore doing spiritually what was originally taught physically.
you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2:5
Application: As His priests we are to present “spiritual sacrifices” to God, the first sacrifice each day being our body, mind, and will in total surrender to Him.