The Christian’s Sacrifice
Consecrated to Christ
On a Jerusalem hillside a huge crowd had gathered to witness an event which would change the destiny of mankind. Darkness had filled the whole earth at noon, and it was drawing near 3:00 p.m. The Temple was filled with priests preparing for the evening sacrifice. A voice cried from the hillside, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46). At that moment the Temple priests were awestruck as they heard and viewed the divine stroke of God tear in half the huge veil that hung in front of the holy of holies.
The empty room of the holy of holies stood naked, open to all, bidding the priests to enter, a privilege no priest, except the high priest, had enjoyed since the inception of the Tabernacle. No longer was a high priest needed to annually atone for sin. Jesus, the true High Priest, had opened the way for mankind to come before a holy God through His atoning blood (Heb. 6:19; 9:3-15; 10:19).
Although the sacrificial system in the Old Testament ceased long ago, the believer is still required to offer one more sacrifice. He is to present his body as a living sacrifice unto the Lord.
Paul admonished the Christians to “present your bodies a living sacrifice” (v. 1). The word for present is the same word translated yield in Romans 6:13. But what is meant by the words present or yield? Simply stated, it is a voluntary, once-and-for-all act, whereby the believer yields his attitudes, actions, and possessions of body, soul, and spirit for God’s use.
The word present is a technical term for offering a Levitical sacrifice. But the Christian’s sacrifice is quite different from that of the Israelite. The Israelite offered a substitutionary lamb; the Christian offers himself. The Israelite’s lamb had to be perfect; the Christian offers himself in a depraved condition and becomes cleansed through Christ’s blood. The Israelite offered a dead sacrifice upon the altar; the Christian offers himself as a living sacrifice for service. The Israelite brought a mandatory sacrifice; the Christian voluntarily offers himself.
Paul does not command but beseeches the believer to make the offering because of the “mercies of God” (v. 1) bestowed on him. The mercies are elucidated by Paul in Romans one through eleven and include all the blessings which the Christian receives through redemption, justification, and sanctification by means of Christ’s shed blood.
When the believer accepts Christ, he is baptized into His body (1 Cor. 12:13). What actually takes place is illustrated in Romans 6:35: First, he is baptized into Christ’s death (v. 3), meaning that the believer died when Christ died, through identification with His crucifixion. Second, he is identified with Christ in His burial (v. 4). As natural burial removes the individual from the sphere of this world, so the believer is spiritually removed from the sphere of Satan’s control and sin’s power. Third, the believer is identified with Christ in His resurrection: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (v. 5). The Christian is resurrected to newness of life in Christ, being separated from the old life of sin. Since the believer is risen with Christ, he is commanded to live in this newness of life by seeking those things which are above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). It is this resurrection power, provided by Christ through the Holy Spirit, which energizes the Christian to live a new life for the Lord.
There are four words which sum up the believers victorious relationship with Christ. First, he is to know, with absolute certainty, that he has been crucified, buried, and resurrected in Christ to newness of life (Rom. 6:3, 6, 9). Second, he is to reckon (count as a reliable fact) that sin has no more dominion over him (Rom. 6:11). Third, he is to yield (body, soul, and spirit) to the control of the Holy Spirit for righteousness (Rom. 6:13, 16, 19). Fourth, he is to obey the doctrine (teaching) which was given unto him (Rom. 6:17).
Paul very succinctly states what happens to the individual at salvation: “I am [have been] crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Since the Christian has been bought with an incalculable price, can he do less than give himself to God as a living sacrifice (1 Cor. 6:19-20)?
The Christian’s offering of himself to God is considered holy, acceptable, and his reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). It is holy, because he is separated unto God for righteous purposes. It is acceptable, because God is extremely pleased with such a commitment. In fact, the believer’s sacrifice is a delight to God! It is his reasonable service, or logical spiritual service to perform, since he is a believer-priest. This service is not simply an external, ceremonial performing of one’s duty like that of the Levitical priesthood, but service flowing from an inner commitment to the Lord.
Even after committing his life to Christ, the individual can be controlled by one of three forces in his life. First, he can be self-centered, living only to satisfy selfish desires. Second, he can be satanically energized to live in sin. Third, he can be Spirit controlled, ordering his life according to the will of God. The individual becomes servant to whatever he yields allegiance, either sin or righteousness (Rom. 6:16). But the Christian has been freed from sin’s control to live under the Spirit’s control.
When the Christian presents his body as a “living sacrifice,” a transformation takes place. He is commanded to “be not conformed to this world” (v. 2). The word conformed means to fashion or shape one thing like another. He is not to be stamped into the mold or fashioned after the image and style of this world. One translator put it well when he said, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” (J. B. Phillips).
What is meant by “the world” (v. 2)? “The world” (Gr. aion) has reference to the spiritual and moral characteristics of the age in which the believer is living. Since the fall of man, all ages have been in spiritual darkness greatly affected by Satan who is the “prince of the power of the air.” But the believer has been freed from this evil system (Eph. 2:1-3), “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10), and does not have to yield to it.
There is much talk today about being worldly, but what is worldliness? One could list hundreds of things which are considered worldly, but are things in themselves worldly? Isn’t it possible to use one’s car, house, radio, television, clothes, etc., for worldliness or godliness?
Is worldliness an action? Yes, it can be, but it is still possible to be worldly in a given area and not commit the act. For example, a person might covet his neighbor’s wife, house, car, or position – although never taking it – and still be worldly. How? – by desiring to possess that which does not belong to him. Thus, worldliness begins as an attitude, before the act is committed. Worldliness is any attitude or action which is patterned after this world’s system. The Apostle John explains it more fully in his epistle (1 Jn. 2:15-17). “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (v. 15). That is, if the individual habitually loves the things of this world, he cannot be loving God at the same time. This is being worldly-minded, rather than spiritually-minded.
Love for the world will be manifested in three specific areas. One area is pleasure, “the lust of the flesh” (v. 16), which desires to satisfy the sin nature (Gal. 5:17-21). Another area is possessions, “the lust of the eyes” (v. 16), a desire for things, which is coveting. The final area is pride, “the pride of life” (v. 16). This manifests itself in a number of ways, such as pride of possessions, position, power, prestige, or popularity. The pride of life is the motivating factor for the lust of the flesh and eyes! God hates pride (Prov. 6:16-17).
John says, “the world passeth away” (v. 17). This world, with its satanic system, is only temporary and marked out for destruction: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mt. 24:35), said Jesus. The one who “doeth the will of God abideth forever” (v. 17). In order to do the will of God, the believer must hold to the Word of God.
“Be not conformed” (Rom. 12:2) is a command. Paul is saying to the Christian, stop assuming an outward expression and fashion which is patterned after this world! The believer is a pilgrim and not to fashion his conduct after a passing world system (1 Cor. 7:31). Someone has rightly stated that the spirit which is wedded to this world’s system will be a widow tomorrow.
The key to spiritual success is doing “the will of God” (1 Jn. 2:17). In being filled with the knowledge of God’s will (Col. 1:9), which comes through His Word (Ps. 119:105), the believer will be able to escape the world’s system and abide in spiritual fellowship with God.
CONFORMITY TO CHRIST
The Christian is to have a transformed life. Transformed is a Greek word (metamorphoo mai) from which “metamorphosis” comes. It is the same word used for Christ’s transfiguration before His disciples (Mt. 17:2). The dictionary defines metamorphosis as “any complete change in appearance or character.” This is best illustrated by the caterpillar who changes into a beautiful butterfly.
The Christian is to undergo a metamorphosis at his conversion. He becomes a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) – a complete change – which is to be expressed in his outward character and conduct. In fact, he is continually being changed into the image of Christ “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18); or, to put it another way, from one successive degree of holiness to another. The Christian’s commitment is maintained by the “renewing of [the] mind” (v. 2). Renewal comes when he saturates himself with the Word of God and prayer, in order that the Holy Spirit can conform him to the image of Christ. He is to emulate the disposition and example of Christ in his thinking. Paul puts it this way: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). What kind of mind is that? Christ’s mind was one of self-abnegation by emptying Himself of His divine rights, subordinating Himself to the role of a bond servant, and submitting to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7-8). His mind was one of complete surrender to the Father’s will while on earth. The Christian is to have the same type of submission if he is to be continually renewed in his spiritual life.
The key to spiritual maturity is the mind. Solomon taught that as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). The individual’s thought life is the directive to what he is, does, or becomes. Paul says, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23); that is, allow the Holy Spirit to so control your mind, so that every area of your life is being continually renewed and conformed to the will of God. To do this, one must “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5, NIV).
The Christian who has his mind renewed daily proves (tests out by experience) [v. 2] the will of God in three ways. First, he finds the will of God to be good, that is, morally honorable, free from all evil. God would not ask the Christian to think, say, or act in any way that does not have his best interest in mind. Joseph being sent to Egypt for God’s purpose and Israel’s good aptly illustrates this point (Gen. 50:20). “And we know,” said Paul, “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Second, he finds the will of God to be acceptable (v. 2); that is, well-pleasing. It may not seem well-pleasing initially, but proves to be so as the believer learns what God is working out in his life. I am sure that Abraham, in offering Isaac as a living sacrifice (Gen. 22), found it hard to understand and accept this as God’s will. But by trusting God, he passed the test and proved the will of God as being acceptable. At times all believers find God’s will to be difficult to understand, rather unreasonable in its demands, and in some cases unacceptable. But if he patiently trusts God and seeks His guidance, the will of God proves to be well-pleasing and the only way to live.
Third, he finds the will of God to be perfect (v. 2); that is, brought to completeness. The will of God is always complete for the believer, nothing need be added to it.
The Christian who surrenders his body as a living sacrifice and is daily renewed by the indwelling Holy Spirit will know that the will of God is good, well-pleasing, and complete.
Though the Christian has yielded his life once for all as a living sacrifice, struggles will come to test his commitment. There will be times when he wants to crawl off the altar, take charge of his own life, and be the controller of his own destiny. Let us remember the simple but deeply profound words of Christ . . .
“I AM THE VINE, YE ARE THE BRANCHES . . . FOR WITHOUT ME YE CAN DO NOTHING” (Jn. 15:5)