by Bill Somers
One well worn cliché of bible study goes something like this. When the bible uses the word 'therefore', find out what it's there for! This principle, however often referred to, is not as often adhered to. You can find any number of preachers who use the text of Romans 12:1 and following, yet I have yet to find one who will expound on the use of 'therefore' in that passage
"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. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Rom 12:1-5 KJV)
The word beseech used in verse 1 is 'parakleo' in Greek. Related to the word paraclete, which refers to the Holy Spirit, parakleo refers to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It can mean 'summon', 'teach', or 'call' as well as beseech. What is it that we are asked, taught, summoned and called to do? Simply to obey God. If we do, we will see ourselves function as many members in one body, the Body of Christ. The word 'so' used in the beginning of verse 5 is like the word therefore, a word denoting a conclusion. The conclusion here is the consequence of obeying verses 1 and 2.
The verses following verse 5 present details and particulars of that obedience. But coming together and functioning as a body is the result of the obedience to those first two verses.
What about the use of 'therefore' in the first verse? It can be seen as the culmination of the entire line of argument in the Epistle to the of Romans. In this case, it is certainly not a simple matter. Or it can be seen as referring to the matters discussed immediately prior to it in chapter 11. In which case it raises other question we may stumble at. Unless, of course, we really are ready to present our bodies a living sacrifice.
The first view, encompassing the whole book, is that the message of the book is to simply obey God. Just as we stated above as the gist of Rom. 12:1-2. To present our bodies is to put ourselves at God's disposal.
This obedience is indeed the theme of the book. Beginning at chapter 1 verse 5 we find these words. "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:" (Rom 1:5-6 KJV)
And in chapter 16, the last three verses of the book we read the following.
"Now to him that is ofpower to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience offaith. :To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen." (Rom 16:25-27)
Note the wording in the first chapter "for obedience to the faith among all nations", is almost identical to that in the last chapter: to all nations for the obedience offaith
The issue of the church is martyrdom, i.e. being a witness; and the issue of the gospel, or faith, is obedience.
The call for obedience is also stated in the gospels in different words. Jesus said "If you love me, keep my commandments",(John 14:15) and "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Mat 22:37)
So the injunction to 'present our bodies' is also stating the theme of obedience in different words.
This view, that Rom. 12.1 is a major conclusion of the entire book, is of course, correct. However, it may lead you to view the use of 'therefore' in this case as referring back to chapter 8 and/ or referring to the entire line of argument. This can result in seeing the material in chapters 9-11 as a digression. This is all the more easy to do because chapter 11 closes with several verses of praise. This praise could be seen as the end of the digression into discussing Israel. Then after this digression the writer returns to the train of thought in chapter 8, which has to do with enduring, laying down our lives and persecution.
The two views we are looking at here are concerning the use of 'therefore' in Romans 12.1.One is that it concludes arguments made throughout the entire course of the epistle, the second is that it concludes arguments made in chapter 11. These views are not mutually exclusive. In other words both can be correct.
This second view says that 'therefore' we are to present our bodies so that Israel might receive mercy. "Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy." (Rom 11:31). And this is so that they might be saved. "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:" (Rom 11:26)
Let's run that down again. Since the Lord intends to save Israel; and He has prophesied it in His word. You could say it like this:
So all Israel shall be saved, and because they may obtain mercy through your mercy, therefore present your bodies a living sacrifice etc.
The difficulty with this is not in the therefore but in the how. How does it come about that Israel can be saved through our mercy?
In the first view of 'therefore', we become many members of one body of Christ, by obeying God. That is when we are obedient, we will be functioning in the body as the Lord intends. We can understand how this can come about. We simply are not willing to obey - in full - as yet.
What is more difficult to see is how this effects the salvation of Israel.
Let's look at Rom. 12.1 again "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." (Rom 12:1) One key idea here is 'the mercies of God'. This is also found in chapter 11 where we read "For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy." (Rom 11:30-31)
It is we in the church that obtained mercy through their unbelief. So how has this come to pass? Because of their unbelief, Jesus died on the cross. And because Jesus died, for all men, we are able to be heirs of salvation in Him, so long as we repent and obey the gospel. Therefore the mercies of God are evident because Jesus presented His body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which was His reasonable service to the Father.
The word service here, often translated worship is defined as the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law; it carries a connotation of a 'sacrifice' by virtue of the Levitical law.
Could it now be that through the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, Jesus wants to offer his body the church a living sacrifice?
If you will grant that the love of God can be synonymous with the mercies of God, consider this next verse. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16) Isn't this saying almost the same thing as Rom. 12.1? To present our bodies a living sacrifice, by the mercies of God is to lay down our lives for the brethren. So as Jesus showed mercy by laying down his life, we show mercy by laying down our lives.
And who are the brethren if not Israel? "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are belovedfor the fathers' sakes." (Rom 11:28). So this confirms the idea that Rom. 12.1 relates to the salvation of Israel discussed in chapter 11.
But it still gives us no idea of how this comes about.
Let's look at the idea of laying down our lives. In Revelation we read the following.
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Rev 12:11) Another translation uses states 'they loved not their lives, but laid them down for him'. It's clear in this case that laying down our lives, dying a martyrs death, is a means of overcoming the enemy. The question is how?
The word 'overcome' is defined as: "to conquer, to carry off the victory, come off victorious; as used of Christ, victorious over all His foes and of Christians, that hold fast their faith even unto death against the power of their foes, " (Oh Death where is thy victory?)
Now how does this victory over death accomplish anything? Let's look at what it says about overcoming in Romans Chapter 12. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals offire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom 12:1921). What this tells us is that you overcome evil with good, that is by laying down your life. And this is because it gives place for the wrath of God. It provides a place or a cause for God to take vengeance. The words 'I will repay' are one of the great promises of scripture.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink, if he wants to kill you, lay down your life. "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." (Mark 8:35) And you will heap coals of fire on his head when the Lord takes his vengeance.
What will this vengeance accomplish in regards to Israel? Apparently the removal of the blindness. The blindness that keeps Israel from realizing that Jesus is their messiah. "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: :" (Rom 11:25-26)
So we are saying that by presenting our bodies a living sacrifice we are ultimately preparing the way for the outpouring of God's wrath. The day of His wrath which is to be the day of Israel's salvation. (See Isaiah 66.5-10)
Earlier we talked about the first view of Romans 12.1 as a reiteration of the call to obedience. We noted that this call to obedience is referred to at the very beginning and at the very end of the book of Romans.
Secondly we looked at Romans 12.1 as it relates back to Romans 11.
Now let's relate these two views together. We said earlier that we become many members of one body of Christ, by obeying God. That is when we are obedient, we will be functioning in the body as the Lord intends. We can understand how this can come about. We simply are not willing to obey - in full - as yet.
Keep this in mind and let's look at the idea of being willing to obey. In Psalms we find this reference to willingness:. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth." (Psa 110:3) (Verse 1 of psalm 110 is one of the verses most often quoted in the bible, this verse portrays a condition for fulfilling verse 1. It is a promise by the Father to the Son.)
The word willing used here in Hebrew is a ''freewill offering'. It is largely used in the context of the Levitical law regarding sacrifices. So it carries the same connotations as the word 'service' does in Romans 12.1.
So this verse could be rephrased: 'thy people shall present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable free will offering (obedience), in the day of thy power '
So when we are willing to obey God to the point that we function in our place in the body, we will also be willing to lay down our lives, literally, when and wherever the Lord shall require. And this is because to present our bodies is to put them at God's disposal!
We also find this word for freewill offering in a passage from Judges 5.2 where it says 'when the people willing offered themselves'. Here is the context of that passage.
Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying, Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD God of Israel. LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the LORD, even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. (Judges 5:1-5)
The context here mentions avenging Israel and alludes to the day of God's wrath by its references to: judgments on Seir and Edom; the earth trembling; the heavens dropping; and the mountains melting. It is the people making themselves a free will offering that is directly linked with The Lords vengeance and the deliverance of Israel. This the same line of thought we followed in relating Romans 12.1 to chapter 11.
So the idea of 'thy people being willing' relates to 'presenting our bodies a living sacrifice'. Then 'the day of thy power' is what we are asking for when we pray 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done'.
Therefore the call to obedience in Romans, specifically in Romans 12.1 has a relation to the Second Coming of the Lord. And this is because it is instrumental in the salvation of Israel.
And looking further, the Second Coming of the Lord is implicit in other passages of Romans. The Lord who is ever interceding for us, is speaking these words through the writer of Romans in chapter 1.9-11. "...without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, "
When we long to see Him as much as He longs to see us, we will be willing to present our bodies on that day.
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