*This post is the 2nd of 4 posts on Romans 12:1-2. See the previous post entitled “The Mercy of God” for the introduction to this discussion.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This portion of the passage carries the idea of constraining and consecrating one’s body for the service of God. In other words, it means restraining the selfish urges that I have and setting my whole self aside for the purposes of God. The picture is not limited merely to the physical body, but encompasses the whole man (understanding, will, affections, actions, etc).
While many of the Roman believers may not have caught the full extent of Paul’s allusions to the Old Testament sacrificial system, it seems unlikely that in such a pagan culture this imagery would have been entirely missed. The OT image of sacrifice carries the idea of the unblemished lambs that were slain as an offering to God for the covering of sin. In the New Testament, Jesus is revealed to be the ultimate sacrificial Lamb who made a permanent covering for sin through his death and resurrection (Heb. 9:14). The adjective “living” attached to sacrifice in this verse is quite the paradox. How could something that was slain and given to God continue to live? This paradox captures a couple of important thoughts: First, the living nature of the sacrifice pictures an ongoing or continual offering of oneself to the Lord. Second, and perhaps more profound, is the status of being raised from the dead (Rom. 6:2-6; 7:4-6). Through faith in Christ, believers are raised to new life. Being crucified with Christ, they are also raised to life with Him. They would not have to die the death that sin deserved since Christ experienced it in their place. In this way, they are called to be living sacrifices that are daily set apart for the things of God.
Holy and acceptable to God promotes the idea of being pure and pleasing to God. Holiness means that something is both clean and consecrated, in other words it is pure and set apart for a special purpose. The instruments used in the temple were said to be holy, that is they were set apart and no longer to be used for an ordinary use in everyday life. Thus, we as believers have been set aside as those redeemed for an extraordinary purpose. Our lives have been reserved for the things/purposes of God. In the Old Testament, God is often described as holy. It is a central facet of His character. And since God is holy, He expects His people to be holy (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). Unfortunately, sin has rendered mankind totally incapable of being holy and acceptable to God. Yet, God in His mercy provided a way for man to be reconciled to Himself. Through the holy character and wrath-appeasing sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His sinless Son, God demonstrated His love toward man. Through our faith in Christ and the redemption He accomplished, His righteousness is given to us. Our sin was exchanged for His righteousness so that His holiness and sacrificial death would be credited to our account while our sin and all that it deserved was deposited to His. Once defiled, we are now made clean (Col. 1:21-23).
The term “spiritual” in the phrase spiritual worship is most literally translated “thoughtful” or “reasonable”. The idea is thoughtful service as a means of worship. This does not mean that the service rendered to God is not done through the Holy Spirit (John 4:24). Rather the idea that Paul seems to be emphasizing is that such worship derives its character as acceptable to God from the fact that it enlists our minds, the faculty of our reason, our intellect. This type of service requires a volitional or willful choice, a concerted effort to engage our minds (Col. 3:1-3, Phil. 4:8). It speaks of a conscious, careful, and consecrated devotion to the service of God. It is not instinctive or mindless worship, but rather an intentional and thoughtful work of serving the Lord God. 
Questions for Meditation:
(Remember that only God’s grace is sufficient to sanctify us toward Christ-likeness, but we are called to exercise faith and diligence in light of that grace.)
1. In what ways does your life (thoughts, affections, attitudes, and actions) evidence that you are reserved for a special purpose? How do you use your hobbies, career, relationships, leisure time, etc. to serve the purposes of God?
2. In what ways does your service to God and the things that glorify Him reflect careful, conscious, and consecrated worship? How intentional is the tangible expression of your devotion? How well do you engage your mind in thoughtful worship by meditating on the things of God and the person of Christ?
Blessings in Christ, Gabe
 John Murray’s commentary on Romans was helpful in better understanding “thoughtful devotion/reasonable service.”