What Does the Bible Mean By ‘A Living Sacrifice’?

Our Life as a Sacrifice to God

“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. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

The Christian life begins with the sacrifice Christ made for our sins on Calvary. The Christian walk begins with our presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice unto God. This sacrifice is explained in Romans 12:1-2. The Liberty Bible Commentary offers the following exposition of this passage:

Paul is speaking to Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles. The mercies of God are all those good things we have because we are in Christ Jesus. Most especially he is referring to those mercies enumerated in Romans 8:35-39.

. . . That ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. This request is eminently linked to his [Paul’s] discussion of sanctification in chapters 6 and 7. In fact, the word rendered present here (Greek partisemi) is the same as translated yield in [Romans] 6:13, 19. Paul now deals in greater detail with what it means to present ourselves to God.

God Wants us To Live Daily For Him

The Lord God wants the sacrifice of our life, not our death. Consequently the sacrifice we are to make of our bodies (representing our whole person) is a living sacrifice. . . . Not only is the presentation of our bodies a living sacrifice but it is also a holy and acceptable sacrifice. . . . When the sacrifice of ourselves to God is holy it is inerrantly acceptable to God and well pleasing to Him. More than this, says the apostle, the sacrifice of ourselves to God is our reasonable service.

The word service (Greek latreia) is a term used for the function of priests in the tabernacle. The adjective (Greek logikos) which precedes it may be translated either reasonable (i.e., rational) or spiritual. But our worshipful service can only be spiritual in the biblical sense when it is characterized by our conscious, intelligent, rational service to the Lord God. In Paul’s theology, spirituality is not some mindless fluttering of the heart but is the presentation of an entire life to the Lord.

Not only is the presentation of our bodies the subject of Paul’s request, it is the pattern of our behavior as well. And be not conformed to this world. Paul cautions the believer not to be fashioned after this world or age (Greek aion). The world system of this age is an evil one (Galatians 1:4), and is dominated by “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The new creation in Christ is to live with the understanding that old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are therefore not to have our lives governed by the thought patterns and dictates of this evil world system.

Renew Your Mind

But how can we prevent that? Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The only possible way for the believer not to be fashioned (Greek syschematizo) after this world is to be transformed in mind. The word transformed (Greek metamorphoo) reaches far deeper than conformity to the world.

This implies a fundamental change in the Christian’s inward nature and a following pattern of character, which corresponds, to that new nature. Thus the mind (Greek nous, the center of logical reasoning, ethical judgement, and moral awareness) must be completely changed if we are to live a life that is holy and acceptable unto God.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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