Theme: Present your lives as a living sacrifice to GodArgument
Having completed his theological argument, Paul now turns to the ethical business of believers living together within God's new community, 12:1-15:13. An overarching concern in this section is the community's witness to the world through the life of its members. In the opening two verses Paul sets the theme for the application of his gospel of grace by stating in clear terms the proper response of the redeemed by grace through faith. Give your whole self to God. Don't be shaped by the world, but be shaped by God's "good, pleasing and perfect will."
i] Context: See 1:1-7. In this exhortatio, this application of the theological exposition of his gospel of grace, Paul begins with a guiding thematic statement for the exhortations covering chapters 12:1-15:13. As Schreiner puts it, a "believer should be wholly dedicated to God", v1-2. The exhortations that follow present in two major sections. The first, 12:3-13:14, address the business of being a Christian community within a pagan environment. In the second section, 14:1-15:13, Paul addresses the business of handling diversity within a Christian community, particularly between "the strong", those who have found freedom in Christ with respect to a strict adherence of the Law of Moses, and "the weak", law-bound believers who feel duty-bound to comply with the Law of Moses, as traditionally interpreted.
Paul opens his community instructions by encouraging his readers to take the time to discern their spiritual gifts and then to exercise them for the upbuilding of the Christian community, 12:3-8. The glue holding together this diversity of gifts is love. So love, the central and abiding moral imperative for a Christian community, is encouraged, along with some guiding tips on its practical application, 12:9-21. These imperatives operate within a hostile environment, but may well alleviate some of the aggravation often directed toward the Christian community. In 13:1-7 Paul extends a believer's responsibility for model citizenship to that of respect toward the governing authorities, of obeying the laws of the State and of paying taxes for the administration of law and order. In simple terms, owe no one anything except the debt of love, 13:8-10. In the context of the eschaton, a Christian community is to cast off darkness, immorality, sensuality, quarreling and jealousy, and put on Christ-likeness, so making no provision to gratify the desires of the flesh, 13:11-14.
In the second part of his ethical instruction, 14:1-15:13, Paul broaches the touchy issue of how those who see themselves as free from the Mosaic law (most would be Gentiles) and those who feel compelled to fully obey the law (law-bound Jewish believers and their Gentile associates) are to relate within the Christian fellowship. First, Paul argues that there be mutual respect / tolerance between "the weak" and "the strong"; that the law-bound and the libertines in the church at Rome "welcome" each other, 14:1-12. Focusing on "the strong", Paul denounces insensitivity on their part toward "the weak", 14:13-23. Riding roughshod over the minutia of the law (possibly the Mosaic law in general) is highly offensive to a person trained in the legalistic observance of the Mosaic law. Paul concludes the subject by making the point that each should consider their neighbor's good by emulating the selflessness of Christ, 15:1-13.
ii] Background: See 1:8-15.
iii] Structure: The introductory thematic statement / paradigm / proposition for the exhortations covering 12:1-15:13 presents as follows:
Give yourself wholly to God, 1a;
for this is your only proper response, 1b.
Do not be conformed to the world, 2a;
but be transformed in the way you think, 2b;
then you will be able to discern God's will, 2c.
iv] Thesis: See 3:21-31.
The wording of these well known verses has long caused confusion. Paul is using sacrificial imagery, of presenting an offering to God. The offering that Paul calls for is not some animal, but our own ta swmata, "bodies", our own selves, our being - the totality of our faculties. In response to all that God has done for us in Christ, his grace in redemption, as expounded in full throughout chapters 1-11, "take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering", Peterson. Such is a "living" sacrifice, rather than a dead one, "holy and acceptable to God." Confusion is caused by the description of this "sacrifice" as thn logikhn latreian "spiritual worship", ESV, "spiritual act of worship", NIV. NIV11 corrects this to "proper worship", but possibly even better "reasonable / rational / intelligent worship." The main problem lies with the word latreian, "worship". This is not a word depicting adoration, but rather service, so Paul describes this living sacrifice as "your reasonable service", Barrett.
Text - 12:1
Proposition: "I urge you to offer up your lives as living sacrifices to Christ", v1-2. As a response to the "kindness", "long-suffering" and "love" of God toward us in the salvation won on our behalf by Christ, we are encouraged to offer our whole selves as "living sacrifices", dedicated to the service of God. We are to do this on the basis of the "mercies of God". In Christ we are made perfect sons of God, so be perfect sons, work at it. Such behavior is reasonable (rational, intelligent) service to Christ.
oun "therefore" - Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion.
parakalw pres. "I urge" - I exhort, encourage [you brothers]. A strong word used to encourage someone to achieve a difficult objective; "I implore", NEB.
dia + gen. "in view of" - through, by means of. The NRSV "by" is most unlikely since this is one of those occasions when this preposition moves from an instrumental sense to a causal sense / basis, even though followed by a genitive, so "because of / on account of."
twn oiktirmwn (oV) "the mercy" - the compassions, pity. Here of God's mercy in Christ; "great mercy", TEV. What "compassions"? Pilcher is probably on the mark with "in view of these saving acts of the divine mercy (namely, the sacrificial atonement made for our sins and the gift of the indwelling of the life-giving Spirit)".
tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God / God's [mercy]" - The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, verbal, subjective, or ablative, source / origin.
parasthsai (paristhmi) aor. inf. "to offer" - to present. The constative aorist infinitive forms a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul is exhorting, "I urge .... that you present ..." As in presenting a sacrifice to God.
swmata (a atoV) "yourselves" - bodies, physical bodies [of you]. We are to offer our life, our being, "our very selves", NEB - be other person centered rather than self centered.
qusian (a) sing. "as [living] sacrifices" - a sacrifice. The accusative "living sacrifices" serves as the complement of the accusative object of "the bodies [of you]." Dedicated to his service", TEV.
euareston adj. "pleasing" - [living, holy] well pleasing, acceptable. The "sacrifice" has three modifiers, namely, living, holy ("consecrated", Moffatt) and pleasing. It may well be true, but can we, by our compromised behavior, ever please God? The word is used in the NT 8 times, mainly by Paul. "Acceptable", Moffatt, is a more appropriate meaning.
tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - The dative could be classified interest, advantage, although the adjective "well pleasing / acceptable" often takes a dative.
thn logikhn adj. "spiritual act of / true and proper" - the rational, reasonable, logical..... The meaning "spiritual" is increasingly accepted, having moved from the AV "reasonable", but Phillips "intelligent" is closer to the sense of the word. The phrase "the spiritual service of you" is usually viewed as appositional of the dependent statement, so "which is your proper service", your "eminently reasonable" service, Schreiner.
latreian (a) "worship" - service [of you]. Service rendered to God, but definitely not worship in the sense of adoration. Three cheers for the old AV, "your reasonable service."
Rather than allowing ourselves to be conformed to this age we should submit to the transforming work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. This renewal progresses through the renewal of our minds as we wrestle with God's Word. It is through a gifted teaching and preaching ministry that we understand God's truth and so both discern what is "good, acceptable and perfect", and then apply that understanding in our daily living.
mh suschmatizesqe (suschmatizw) pres. mid./pas. imp. "do not conform to the pattern" - [and] do not be conformed with, fashioned, formed, molded. Gnomic present. "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould", Phillips.
tw/ aiwni (wn wonoV) dat. "of [this] world" - to [this] age. Dative of rule / direct object after the sun prefix verb "to conform with"; "the world's ways", Barrett.
alla "but" - Strong adversative, as NIV.
metamorfousqe (metamorfow) pres. mid./pas. imp. "be transformed" - be changed, transformed. Gnomic present. Note the passive, "let yourself be transformed by God", Cranfield. The prefix may indicate inward transformation, as opposed to outward conforming, but Cranfield argues against this view. Cranfield argues the two verbs, "conformed" and "transformed" are virtually synonyms. Hendricksen and others doubt this. "There is a basic difference between outward conformity and inward transformation", Morris.
th/ anakainwsei (iV ewV) dat. "by the renewing" - The dative is instrumental, expressing means.
tou nooV (ouV oV) gen. "of [your] mind" - of the reasoning, thinking ability, mind. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, "the mind's renewal", or verbal objective, "let God re-mould your mind's from within", Phillips. Cranfield argues that Paul is referring to that element of our conscious self that entails "moral sensitivity and perceptiveness." Renewal is present tense indicating an ongoing process of intellectual renewal, obviously through the Spirit; "let God change the way you think", CEV.
eiV to dokimazein (dokimazw) inf. "then you will be able to test and approve" - to prove. The articular infinitive + the preposition eiV usually forms a purpose clause, "in order that ....", but result is possible here. The word can mean "prove", "test", but can also mean "approve." The NIV takes two bites of the cherry, but Paul most likely means "test", in the sense of distill out the truth of God's revealed will.
tou qeou (oV) gen. "God's [will is]" - [what is the will] of God. The genitive is probably adjectival, possessive, as NIV, but possibly ablative, expressing source / origin, "the will revealed from God."
to agaqon kai euareston kai teleion adj. "his good, pleasing and perfect will" - the good and well-pleasing and perfect will. This accusative construction stands in apposition to "will"; "that .... you may discern what is the will of God, namely, what is good, acceptable and perfect." Rather than appositional / adjectival, the accusative construction may be expressing the result of discerning the will of God. Believers, having their minds renewed by the indwelling Spirit, are then able "to discern the will of God, and so know what is good, acceptable and perfect."