A Living Sacrifice

Glendol McClure

In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul used the physical body to illustrate the order and cooperation of its members. Even though the body is made of many members, all members have a specific function, but not the same function, cf. Rom. 12:3-8. Paul also used this illustration of the physical body to teach that members of the body of Christ, the church, must have the proper care one for another. Further, Paul exhorted the Corinthians to desire the best gifts. The gift discussed in Chapter 13 that is above all gifts and "never fails" is charity or love. The teaching of Jesus on the subject of love set the standard when He taught, "ÖThou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40); cf. Mk. 12:30, 31; Lk. 10:27. Therefore, our love must be in the proper order, first for God and then our fellow man. The underlying motive of all our actions must be charity or love.

Righteousness By Faith

Paul begins the Roman epistle by referring to himself as "... a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God" (Rom. 1:1). This language illustrates Paulís dedicated service to God. In Romans Chapter 6, Paul discusses the blessings of obedience, teaching that the physical body must be used in service to God and not in service to unrighteousness. Paul also illustrates his sacrificial manner of life in his epistle to the Philippians where he wrote, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom 1 have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Phil. 3:7-11). Righteousness by faith is the central theme throughout the first 12 chapters of the Roman epistle.

In Romans 12, Paul brings the theme of righteousness by faith to a head when he wrote, "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" (Rom. 12:1, 2). Because of the points Paul had already discussed, he then beseeches (implores or urges) the Romans to do the things he mentioned in these two verses; not to the exclusion of the other teaching in this epistle. Here Paul again uses the physical body described as "a living sacrifice" to represent the entire and complete sum of the life of a child of God. Therefore, the works in the body (deeds while living) whether good or bad are accomplished in the tabernacle of the flesh and every man will be judged according to his works (2 Cor. 5: 1-10). This bodily sacrifice is to be "holy, acceptable to God," which is our "reasonable service" (spiritual service). Our service to God, must be from the heart (mind) for out the heart "are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Next, Paul warns of being "conformed" or molded to the world and stresses nonconformity by using the term "transformed." Conformity may refer to anything involving the habits, manners, dress, style of living, etc. Transformation is accomplished by the process of mind renewal, with the source of the renewal being the "righteousness of God." Paul expressed the concept of renewal or the "new man" to the Colossians when he said, "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10); cf. 2 Cor. 4:16 & Eph. 4:23. Therefore, the life of a Christian is to be new and different and patterned after Christ as the name "Christian" implies.

The Nature Of The Sacrifice

The nature of this sacrifice is of great importance and must not be over looked.

First, it is a sacrifice! As the term sacrifice implies, a Christian must be the victim or the offering! We must offer ourselves. We are not to be victims of a sinful life, but victims for the cause of Christ. This sacrifice must be presented! When we give someone a gift, we buy the gift, wrap the gift and present the gift to the person intended and usually in view of others. We prepare the gift that is presented. The life of the Christian must involve preparation for the life to come. See Amos 4: 12. Under the old law, gifts and sacrifices (dead ones) offered to God were prepared! We surrender all rights to the gift we bought, wrapped and gave! It belongs to the receiver of the gift! Paul taught this principle concerning our bodies when he wrote, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own" (1 Cor. 6:19)?

This sacrifice must be a living sacrifice. Our lives must be alive to God and dead to sin! Paul wrote, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom. 6:11-13). We must be involved in Godly works which are good works. Jesus taught, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16). The light Jesus spoke of is the example of Godly works, not a cigar or cigarette!

This sacrifice must be holy. The Greek word hagios rendered "holy" means, sacred, physically pure, morally blameless or religious, consecrated. This sacrifice must be free of defilement. After all, it is being offered to God and it must meet the terms God demands. Paul teaches that our bodies are to be used to glorify God and not to satisfy the lusts of the flesh, hence it must be holy! cf. Rom. 1:24; 6:12; 13:14; Gal. 5:24; 2 Tim. 2:22; Tit. 2:12.

This sacrifice must be acceptable unto God. God will accept or reject the sacrifice we offer. Consider the sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel. The offering of Cain was not respected in Godís eyes, however, God had respect for the offering of Abel (Gen. 4: 1-4). The Hebrew writer states that Abelís sacrifice was according to faith, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4). Likewise, in order for our sacrifice to be acceptable to God, it must be offered according to the revealed will of God.


The life of a Christian must be presented as a holy offering, alive to God. The Christian cannot use the body for the satisfaction of fleshly desires, because the body is "not your own" (1 Cor. 6:19). Our bodies belong to God, hence they must be sacrificed to Him! A Christian cannot sacrifice the body to things that entangle and defile, such as the use of tobacco, the social consumption of alcohol, gambling, immodest dress, sexual immorality including adulterous marriages, religious error and compromise and any and all things that defile. The body is to be the "temple of God" (1 Cor. 3:16, 17). The life of the Christian must be prepared according to the "righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). If we spend our lives in sacrificial service to Christ and His cause, then we will be received into the "Fatherís house" where there are "many mansions," prepared for us by Christ who sacrificed Himself for us (Jn. 14:1-3).