“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.” Romans 12:1
I’ve always thought this verse meant that I needed to inconvenience myself, even make sacrifices for the Lord. This is the definition of sacrifice I had in mind; doing something difficult, denying myself, like we sacrifice for our kids. Studying this verse would result in my making a list of ways I could give more, be more, do more for the Lord.
Lately, the kids and I have been reading a lot from the Old Testament. We read about the first Passover where God told Moses that He would pass over only those households with the blood of a sacrificial lamb spread on the lintel and doorposts that dark night in Egypt when the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land. We know there is no atonement for sin without the shedding of blood. Remember that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s. They were both of their first fruits, so what was the difference? Abel offered a blood sacrifice acknowledging to God his sin and his need for atonement, while Cain offered only grain, whether in ignorance or in rebellion we do not know.
Just as the law was meant to show God’s people their sin, the sacrificial system was meant to serve as a sober reminder that the penalty for sin is death. There is no way to work your way or buy your way out of it. You can only pay for your sins with your life. And animal sacrifices, never sufficient to atone for sins in their own right, only served as a copy or foreshadowing of the atonement Christ would bring in His perfect life and sacrificial death for His people. “But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)
And then it came to me. How many times had I read that the bull or lamb that is offered as a sacrifice for sins to the Lord must be “without blemish”? Why did it have to be without blemish? Of course, because the animal sacrifices were copies of Christ, who would live a perfect, holy life. He was truly without blemish, totally unstained by the world. God in His infinite holiness and justice cannot accept a sacrifice that is not “without blemish”.
I think I finally get it. It’s not that I’m supposed to make a sacrifice, it’s that I’m supposed to be a sacrifice. Paul is telling the Roman Christians, and us, to be holy! He could have said it this way. “Your blood is not required to pay your penalty, since Christ already shed His blood for your sins. Because your death is not required, offer your life instead as a sacrifice.” His Jewish audience would have understood the requirements for an acceptable sacrifice. They would have known this meant they were to be untainted by the world.
The next verse confirms this. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2
I never looked at it quite like this before. The things on my "do more for the Lord list" may still get done, but getting them done while having unrepentant sin in my life misses the point. I think Psalm 40:6&8 sums it up nicely. "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; my ears you have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart."
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.