(Click to listen to an audio recording of this article: What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?)
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.” Romans 12:1.
Paul beseeched the Romans to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. In other words, it was really urgent for him that they do this; it was something really significant. But what does it actually mean to give our bodies as a living sacrifice? Clearly, he was speaking figuratively, not literally. And this entreaty was not just for the Romans – it is essential for us in our day too!
To answer this question, we have combined two articles – one by Sigurd Bratlie and one by Johan Oscar Smith. May this message inspire you to remain in this constant state of presenting your own body as a living sacrifice!
A living sacrifice
Our service to God is to present our bodies as an acceptable sacrifice to Him. What I have sacrificed is no longer mine. When He came into the world, Jesus said, “A body You have prepared for Me … Behold, I have come … to do Your will, O God.” Hebrews 10:5-7. He could have used His body to seek His own – to seek honor and power, to lead a pleasant life, etc. – but He did not live to please Himself. (John 6:38; Romans 15:3.) He presented His body to God as an acceptable sacrifice. Everything He did with His body was for our benefit and salvation.
Now we are called to follow Him. Now the time has come for us to present our bodies as a sacrifice. We must take care that our body is always ready, holy, acceptable to God to carry out His will. We must not use it to seek our own, but rather for our neighbor’s best. (Romans 15:1-2.) The tongue must not be used to speak on our behalf, defending ourselves, but to speak on God’s behalf – to speak to edification that it may impart grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29.) My legs shall not be used to run where I like to go, but to run where I can be of profit. My arms shall not be used to lay hold of and take what I like, but to give to the others what is profitable. Therefore, my body is meant to profit the others, not myself.
If I give everything I own to the poor, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love does not seek its own. (1 Corinthians 13:3,5.) If I give away everything I own, but seek to receive it again in the form of honor and a good report, then it is not a work done with a sacrificed body. I have sought my own and am nothing. Love does not seek its own.
Not my will, but Yours, be done
Beingmeans that I turn away from my own will to do God’s will. Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42. It might seem like God is requiring things that are humanly impossible for you, things you will never be able to do. No, not at all. He has given His commandments that we may keep them exactly, and as the day is, so shall our strength be. He always gives grace to help at the right time, and grace is power to do His will.
When Jesus was on earth, He said, “Behold I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.” Hebrews 10:7. Jesus had the power of God’s Spirit over Him to do God’s will because He offered Himself in the power of an eternal Spirit. He had a self-will, but He sacrificed that to fulfill His Father’s will. The sacrifice was within Himself, and He was obedient; therefore He could teach us to pray this prayer: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10.
The point is that people are to do the will of God here on earth. We have received power to do His will through the Holy Spirit which has come upon us, the same Spirit that was over Jesus in the days of His flesh. Just as any sensible person here on earth would not expect more from his children than they can manage, much more will our heavenly Father tailor His divine will to the circumstances of our lives. To believe anything else is unbelief. Our human reasoning can tell us that God’s great demands on us are unreasonable. But these thoughts are sinful; they have nothing to do with reality. God’s will is our sanctification, and His will can be done. It must be done if we are going to be sanctified. It is written that Christ has become for us the wisdom of God, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30.) He works in us to will and to do, and He takes care not to work in us more than we are able to do.
“Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings and offerings for sin You did not desire.” Hebrews 10:8. All these sacrifices were outside the body, and they were never able to bring people to the sacrifices within the body – those sacrifices which Jesus Christ came to offer. We are also called to partake of this ministry of sacrifice. Just as Abraham and God were in agreement concerning the sacrifice of Isaac, we also must agree with God to offer our own Isaac. Only then can God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
(Johan Oscar Smith)
These articles have been translated from Norwegian and were first published in BCC’s periodical Skjulte Skatter (Hidden Treasures) as “Serving God” (Sigurd Bratlie) in November 1932 and “God’s will – my will” (Johan Oscar Smith) in January 1943.
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.