What does it mean to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1)?

3 Min Read

I believe that you were, firstly, created to worship. Secondly, you were saved to worship. And thirdly, you are providentially sustained to worship. When God made humanity, He gave a creation mandate, but it was to be done for the glory of God. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, you do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

When God saves you, He saves you for His glory. One of the great texts of Scripture is the doxological statement in Ephesians 1:3–14, and there are two astonishing things about it. First of all, it’s one sentence—228 words—but one sentence. Secondly, it’s Trinitarian: vv. 3–6 are about how the Father has predestined or authored your salvation, vv. 7–12 are about how the Son of God has accomplished your salvation, and vv. 13–14 are about how the Holy Spirit has applied that salvation. It is a Trinitarian doxology: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of those sections ends with the same phrase: “To the praise of His glorious grace.” We have a Trinitarian gospel, and each person of the Trinity is to be praised because of God’s saving work.

God created us for worship, He saves us for worship, and thirdly, He sustains us. We have life and breath because of Him. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. That’s why our forebears in the Westminster Shorter Catechism began question one as follows: What is the end of man? What is the purpose of man? The purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Notice that those are two statements, but only one purpose. What is the purpose (singular) of man? Glorify and enjoy. That would be two purposes, wouldn’t it? No, it’s two sides of the same coin. The more you enjoy Him, the more you praise Him; the more you praise Him, the more you enjoy Him.

You are created, redeemed, and sustained to praise the Lord. How? Through two venues. Number one is the gathered assembly of God’s people. At Briarwood, we have the large group on Sunday morning and Sunday night. We have the congregational community Sunday schools. We have small groups. Just like Jesus had the multitudes, the seventy, the Twelve, and the three, you create ways for people to assemble together to build relationships for worship, to give praise to God as you serve the Lord together.

Then, in your personal life, you are to live as an act of worship. In the book of Romans, after giving eleven chapters to explain the gospel, Paul ends with a doxology: “God, You are too much. Everything is from You to You and unto You. Who has been your counselor?” Next verse, at the beginning of Romans 12: “Therefore, I urge you—I appeal to you—to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

In the Old Testament, the focus was on dead sacrifices. In the New Testament, it’s a living sacrifice because our Sacrifice lives and He brings life to us. So, you are to be living sacrifices, sanctified by His power, His presence, and His redeeming grace, sanctified so that you are holy and without blame as you give the praise to the Lord.

Now, how do you do personal worship that feeds corporate worship? Here’s how you do it: Don’t be conformed to the world. Don’t be pressed in the mold of the world. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may manifest that which is good and acceptable. In other words, life is worship. Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, in all things Christ is to have preeminence.

God has saved us so that, personally, we who fell short of the glory of God now have our greatest delight—to live lives to the glory of God in everything we do, think, feel, and say. We’re on that trajectory of being perfected in sanctification. Then, we gather together with the redeemed to praise the Lord, and Lord’s Day gathered worship becomes the template for everyday personal worship. That’s the way I think the text in Romans 12 is to be embraced.

This transcript is from an Ask Ligonier Podcast session with Harry Reeder and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.