Becoming a Living Sacrifice
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.
— Romans 12:1
It is no secret that the desires of your flesh are often in direct contradiction with God’s plan for your life. When God calls for moderation, the flesh strongly cries out for excess, and it will fight tooth and nail to get its way. That is why the apostle Paul began Romans 12:1 by intensely pleading and commanding you to hear and follow through with obedience to his message. 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.”
I especially want to draw your attention to the word “beseech” at the beginning of this verse. In Greek, it is the word parakaleo, which is a compound of the words para and kaleo. The word para means alongside, and the word kaleo means to call or to beckon. When these two words are compounded, the new word depicts a person who comes alongside someone else, as close as he can get, and then begins to passionately call out, plead, beckon, or beg another person or group of people to do something. In fact, the sense of pleading is so strong in the word parakaleo, one expositor has suggested that this verse figuratively shows the apostle Paul on his knees, pleading with his readers to hear what he is saying and to do what he is requesting. This is no mere asking; it is Paul prayerfully pleading for his readers to hear his petition and obey it.
However, it is important to note that the word parakaleo actually holds another layer of meaning. In New Testament times, this word was also used to describe military commanders who would passionately address their troops before sending them into battle. In this context, the word parakaleo means to exhort, and it depicts a leader urging his soldiers to take action, prepare themselves for a fight, and then brave the imminent battle with courage and a commitment to win, regardless of the difficulties that might lie ahead. This is no suggestion — it is a command! Thus, Paul’s use of the word parakaleo in Romans 12:1 reveals that in addition to earnestly pleading with his readers, he was commanding them as a leader and exhorting them to obey his request. What Paul was about to convey to his audience would require great fortitude and commitment on their part, so it was vital that they entered this spiritual battle with great strength of courage.
What was this difficult and monumental task Paul was urging us to intentionally engage in to fully accomplish? It was to present our bodies as a living sacrifice unto God.
Paul continued, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice….” The phrase “ye present” is a translation of the Greek word paristemi, and it means to present a sacrifice or to dedicate something to the Lord. In fact, it is the same word used in Luke 2:22 to describe the moment when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to God and dedicated Him in the Temple. The verse states, “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.” The word “present” in this verse is paristemi — the same word used in Romans 12:1. Just as Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to God and fully dedicated him to His service, Paul was exhorting us to present and dedicate our human bodies to God.
Because of his choice of language, there is no doubt that Paul was referring to the human body when he urged his readers to “present your bodies a living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1. The word “bodies” is the Greek word soma, which specifically refers to the physical body. Paul was calling on believers everywhere to surrender their physical bodies to the service of God — to put their bodies on the altar and dedicate them to God as “a living sacrifice.”
Paul knew this endeavor would be difficult because the human body by its very nature does not want to be laid on the altar. Flesh desperately desires to be in full control of itself and will actively resist God’s cry for surrender. So like a military commander, Paul exhorted his audience to take charge of their physical bodies and to surrender them to God regardless of what their flesh was telling them to do.
Paul’s language in this verse is peculiar, because in New Testament times, there was no such thing as a
living sacrifice when it came to the sacrifice of animals. All sacrifices were dead and thus had no voice or ability to resist. When a sacrificial animal was killed on an altar, the act was final, and the animal couldn’t protest or scream out after the fact that it didn’t want to be sacrificed. Yet in Romans 12:1, God calls on us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. He seeks living human beings who belong wholly to Him and who choose to stay on the altar of their own free will. In other words, we are to be completely surrendered to Him, fully dedicated to His purpose, and living entirely for Him — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
So take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you struggle with surrendering your body to the Lord and remaining a “living sacrifice”?
- What do your physical habits reveal about the current state of your surrender to God?
- Does your body call the shots, or is Jesus the Lord of your body?
These questions may be difficult to acknowledge, but they are vitally important. If you find that it’s difficult to keep your body dedicated to God, don’t be too shocked or disappointed in yourself. Realize it’s a challenge for everyone, but don’t give yourself any slack! Make a quality decision today to continually recommit the ownership and lordship of your body to Jesus Christ as a living sacrifice.
As we’ve seen, it’s what your Heavenly Father asks for — the total surrender of your body, its habits, and its actions. He wants you on the altar, and He wants all of you. He knows that it is as you willingly choose to adopt that position of utter surrender to Him that His Spirit will be able to work in you and through you to become everything He created you to be.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, Jesus asked us why we call Him Lord, yet fail to do what He tells us to do. The one I obey is the one I truly serve. Today I see areas where I have allowed the voice of my flesh to call the shots. Instead of mastering and subduing my flesh into silence, I have silenced the voice of my spirit that calls for me to present my body as a living sacrifice in obedient surrender to You. Father, I humble myself beneath Your mighty hand, and I repent for the ways I have indulged the carnal mind, which is not subject to You. I judge that as rebellion and I refuse to give it place any longer. Father, I thank You for Your great mercy in opening the eyes of my under- standing to see this as You see it. I choose to submit to You and to resist the devil’s attempts to exploit my flesh to gain access to my life. You alone, Lord Jesus, have the right to lead me and conform my thoughts to Your will.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I make a decisive dedication of my body and my faculties to the Lord. I choose to follow the example of my Lord Jesus, who learned obedience through the things He suffered by walking in continual obedience to the will of the Father. I choose to make a continual commitment to refuse to live life according to fleshly dictates. Although this may be the biggest fight of my life, I decide and decree that this is a fight that will be won as I yield to the power of the Greater One inside me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Has there been a concrete moment you can recall when you presented your body to Jesus Christ as a living sacrifice? If yes, when was that moment? If no, why not do it today before you do anything else or go anywhere else? It will change your life!
- In what areas of your life do you battle with surrendering your body to the Lordship of Jesus? What steps can you take to make this process of submission easier?
- Why don’t you make a list of the areas that you still need to surrender to the Lord? At least if you have a list, you’ll be aware of what areas you need to present to the Lord and work on committing to Him.