NKJV - 1 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 reasonable service.
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Just as “reasonable service” in English is comprised of two words, so also the Greek uses two words to express this idea. The Greek noun “latreia” has both a general meaning of “service,” “ministry” or “work for hire,” as well as a technical meaning of “temple ministry,” “priestly service,” “sanctuary work” or “worship.” The noun is used only four times in the New Testament, but the corresponding verb, “latreuo,” occurs twenty-one times, meaning “to serve,” “to minister” or “to worship.” It is the noun “latreia” that is translated “service” in Romans 12:1. The Greek adjective “logikos” means “pertaining to a word,” “pertaining to a message,” “pertaining to the soul,” “logical,” “reasonable,” or “spiritual.” It is related to the Greek noun “logos,” which means “word” or “message,” as well as our English word “logical.” English translations, as well as commentators, are split as to whether it is best understood in Romans 12:1 as “reasonable” or as “spiritual.” The flow of Paul’s argument in Romans is to first set forth the fallen condition of all men, then the gospel message of salvation by faith in the person and work of Christ, third the sanctification of the believer, next the vindication of God’s righteousness in the election of individuals and Israel, and then a doxology extolling God’s wonderful plan of salvation. Chapter twelve begins the practical application of many of the truths described up to this point in the letter, and it begins with our verse 1. Paul bases his appeal to the Roman believers on what he calls “God’s mercies” (plural “mercies”). He is referring to all the merciful and gracious things that God has done which he has mentioned in chapters 1-11. In view of all the marvelous mercies of God, he urges them to offer their bodies as “living sacrifices.” The sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were slaughtered, but Christ has fulfilled the Law, and no more dead sacrifices for sin are needed or expected. But God is now pleased if we offer our bodies and lives as “living sacrifices.” This will not only be “pleasing to God,” but it is our “logiken latreian.” It seems likely to me that, in view of the context of “living sacrifices,” the notion of priestly service is intended. The priestly service of the Levitical priesthood is no longer needed, but all believers can “serve” as priests now, offering not bloody sacrifices, but living ones. If “latreia” means “priestly service,” what is the meaning of “logikos?” Is it “spiritual,” or is it “logical” or “reasonable?” Either one can make sense in this context. Because of the consideration of “God’s mercies” as the basis for his appeal, I slightly favor the idea of “logical.” So Paul’s appeal is that in view of God’s mercies they should offer their bodies as living sacrifices. This is pleasing to God, and it is just the reasonable thing to do (in view of all he has done for us).
In order to appreciate the context of Romans 12:1-2, we need to examine the passage of Romans 12:1-8 where Paul is describing our new life in Christ. The apostle uses the imagery of a priesthood service, a theme commonly depicted of the church in a number of New Testament letters. 1 Peter 2:9 vividly captures this idea when the Apostle Peter describes the church as "... a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:." The idea here is that the church should always express its gratitude for Christ's redemption works by which we were transformed from sinfulness into a holy people who should please God in their lives. This is therefore the gist for the priestly service described in Romans 12:1-2. Paul exhorts the Romans to embrace the new life in Christ and make it more distinctly shine in contrast to the life they led before. One of the ways to do this is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, meaning that we are to keep away from the entanglements of sinful lusts and live a consecrated life for Christ. The Greek word for reasonable service "logikos latreia" can be interpreted as the "logical performance of sacred services". This means that the service that God expects of us is one that should measure up to the standards He has set for us as his chosen people. Romans 12:2 in fact lays bare the intent of this reasonable service. The command to us is thus: "....And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed..." The evidence of a transformed life in Christ is the fact that the believer is no longer hostage to the allures of this word that inflame his sinful desires. The idea is simply that a priest ought himself to be holy before he makes an offering or any other priestly service to God. Believers were therefore called upon to keep their bodies pure in a pagan Roman society which was polluted with moral depravity. In the word we live in today, sexual promiscuity is a defining mark of our humanist society where pornography rules the internet sites and sexual permissiveness is no longer frowned at but rather celebrated, the believer must hold fast to the ideals of the faith as defined in Scripture. The world should never set or define our spiritual standards for believers but scripture always should. The more we draw closer to God in holiness, the more we discover the greater need to draw even closer. His loving nature gives us the more reason to embrace his truths even more firmly than we ever did before. We shall therefore experience growing intimacy with God as we undergo the transformation into a spititual community set aside by God in a wicked world. This is the reason that the message is further amplified in Romans 12:3 going forward. The more we draw closer to God in obedience, the more we discover that we can never please God of our own effort and we shall hunger more for His righteousness. This is the impact of the reasonable service contemplated in Romans 12:1-2.
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