What Does it Mean to Be a Living Sacrifice in Romans 12?

What Does it Mean to Be a Living Sacrifice in Romans 12?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Relevant to our currently daily lives, Paul practically instructed the Romans how to dedicate their lives as living sacrifices to God. Christ made a way for us to accomplish a closeness with God and forgiveness for our sins that was impossible before He descended from heaven. His life, death, and resurrection broke the curse of since which blocks us from the presence of God. In Christ, we are ushered into an intimate relationship with God, who in His great mercy sent His one and only Son to die for us while we were still sinners. Out of a gratitude we cannot fully express on this earth, we dedicate our daily lives to honor and bring glory to God.

What Does Romans 12 Mean by 'Living Sacrifice'?

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4

We no longer need to bring animal sacrifices to an altar, because of Christ’s once for all sacrifice for us. “Unlike dead animal sacrifices, Christians must live to serve God constantly,” Michael Vanlaningham explains, “Rather than be shaped to look like the world, the Christian’s mind is to be renewed in order to appreciate the importance and benefits of God’s will as revealed in His Word" (Moody Bible Commentary). God’s mercy rains down upon us when we embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior. We die to ourselves in order to live for Him. His supernatural love and forgiveness flow through us we follow Him. This is the picture of a living sacrifice. Our lives worship God before we even lift a hand in the air to sing His praise when we live each day as a living sacrifice. We do this by ensuring we are right with God, through Christ, and in our response to God. “Before you think that the Christian life has everything to do with being merciful to people,” John Piper explains on desiringGod.org, “realize that it has everything to do with being worshipful toward God.”

The first eleven chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans tell of the mercy of God. In Chapter 12, he tells them how to live their new lives in Christ. Untangling legalistic laws and religious rules to narrow the life of a Christ follower down to becoming the living sacrifice in gratitude of God’s saving grace through His Son. “Paul goes into detail to show that Jesus Christ is to be Lord of every area of life,” the NIV Study Bible explains.

How Is This Our True and Proper Worship according to Paul?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?James 2:14

God created each and every one of us. His plan to save us from the curse of sin has been in place since the beginning. God is intentional and purposeful. Our very lives are meant to bring glory and honor to God. We are made in His image. True and proper worship to the One True God is submitting our selves daily as a living sacrifice. It means putting our agenda down and picking up His good will for our lives.

No-one will ever be able to live up to the holy standard required to stand in the presence of God. Christ lived the perfect life none of us could, and He choose willingly to sacrifice it for our forgiveness. “Faith expresses itself in obedience,” the NIV Study Bible explains, “Obedient service- the ‘liturgy of life.’” Without salvation in Christ, the consequence for our sins is death. New life in Christ allows us to confess and repent of our sins. We become a living sacrifice, in that our very lives worship our God who reached down to save us. “God’s mercy means His pity, compassion, and kindness toward people,” Dawn Wilson defines, “His mercy shows up in the believer’s life at salvation, and then God continues to show mercy in forgiveness.” “…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

What Are the Characteristics of a Living Sacrifice?

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16

Paul wrote not to conform to the pattern of this world. When discussing what her word of the year was, my daughter proposed “self-love.” A word our world very much applauds, I knew her intention wasn’t to focus on vanity amongst other synonyms of the word. Her true intention is to reflect the peace of Christ in her heart, and to believe the truths God says about her, over the lies of the world. Our enemy and the cursed sin-soaked world we live in is deceitful. When we are in Christ, God’s love flows through our lives. Our behavior reflects the fact we know the difference between self-love and a living sacrifice. Christ died so we would live our lives to the full. When we believe condemning lies it’s impossible to live fully for God.

“Christ gave himself for us, and we are to respond by giving ourselves to him,” Dr. R.C. Sproul explains, “We give ourselves to thank and serve him.” A living sacrifice means believing who God says we are and what He has promised for us. This is where our confidence comes from, and our lives will radiate God’s presence and mercy when we embrace our confidence in Him. Paul calls for a renewal of our minds, and Scripture reminds us to take our thoughts captive. “Spiritual (logikos, from which the Eng. word ‘logical’ is derived) means ‘rational,’ ‘reasonable,’ ‘that which is carefully thought out,” Michael Vanlaningham explains (Moody Bible Commentary). Constantly and consistently, in prayer and God’s Word, our minds develop a godly wisdom and perspective that allows us to see His hand on our lives and His love to radiate through us and onto others.

Throughout the entirety of our lives, through the process of sanctification, we are being made holy …like Christ. “Involvement of the heart, mind, will and life- the whole of what creatures such as human beings are and do” (NIV Study Bible). It is a lifetime of days we choose to drop our agenda, refuse to believe lies about who we are not, and embrace the full life we have in Christ to walk out God’s agenda for us in His Kingdom.

Why Are Sacrifice and Consecration Important in the Bible?

“…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” Galatians 1:3b-4

Transformation is a life-long process. Sacrifice is synonymous with surrender. When we are baptized in Christ, we die to our old selves, and embrace new life, sacrificing what we selfishly want to gain and achieve in life for God’s greater purpose. Daily, we sacrifice our lives in submission to God’s will for us, continually dedicating ourselves to His purpose. “Do not love the world or anything in the world,” John wrote, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15).

Consecration means to dedicate our lives to God. Idols are anything that creep up and attempt to take the place of God as first and foremost in our lives. We have to be diligent about asking God to search our hearts for distractions and preoccupations that take away from our focus on Him and His agenda for each of our days/lives. Sacrifice and consecration are important because of Jesus. He sacrificed His life for us, once for all. He was consecrated to the will of His Father. He choose to give His life, freely. When He rose again, death was defeated and freedom from the consequence of death for sin was made possible. He literally made a way, and we as Christ followers dedicate our lives to the way He made for us to come into the presence of God. Today, and everyday here on earth and onto eternity, we get to live our lives in a way that worships God before we every lift a hand in the air to sing His praise. This is what it means to be a living sacrifice. To understand who Jesus is, what He sacrificed for us, and what that means for us now and onto eternity. Our hope, here on earth and eternally, is in Him.

The call to be a living sacrifice is a difficult daily process, but life within the love of Christ overflows with the supernatural peace and joy of abiding in and obeying our Father in Heaven. Everyday is purposed to bring glory to God. “No improvement can be made upon the will of God” (NIV Study Bible). When we understand what it means to worship God as living sacrifices, we get to embrace the fullness of His will for our lives.

NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 2008.
Moody Bible Commentary, Moody Publishers Chicago, 2014.

Further Reading:

What Does it Mean to Be a ‘Living Sacrifice’ and How Do I Be One?

Being a Living Sacrifice Not a Cutting Sacrifice

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Wenping-Zheng

Meg BucherMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ at megbucher.comShe is the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion." Meg earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Web Network since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team at Salem Web Network. Meg loves being involved in her community and local church, leads Bible study, and serves as a youth leader for teen girls.

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