Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Our initial salvation –- our justification -- is based on the work of Christ on the cross. It is His work completely. It is received by faith alone. Our good works can add nothing to it. (See: WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?) However, there are demands immediately placed on the one who believes. Our lives are to be different. We are not to “continue in sin that grace may increase” (Romans 6:1). Jesus, in the gospels makes radical demands of His followers. The writers of the epistles, especially Paul, make the same demands, although the terminology may be different.

“I urge you therefore brothers, through the mercies of God, to present your bodies a sacrifice, living, holy, well pleasing to God, your reasonable religious service” (Romans 12:1).

“Neither present your members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as alive from the dead and your members as weapons of righteousness to God… For even as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness unto further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, unto sanctification” (Romans 6:13, 19).

Paul gives the proper motive for commitment as “the mercies of God” which we have experienced (which he has described in the first 11 chapters of Romans). Because of what God has done for us, His compassionate acts, His salvation in Christ, the only “reasonable act of worship” is commitment to Him. The Greek word translated “reasonable” is logiken. It does not mean “spiritual” as the NASB and others translate. Any other reaction would apparently be “unreasonable.” Notice, this is not something we must do in order to “be saved,” it is an exhortation to the brethren (which includes the sistern), those who have already experienced God’s “mercies.” Nor is it a requirement to “stay saved” or to demonstrate that one “is saved.” None of the contexts even remotely hint at this.

The totality of commitment may startle us. Following Christ is not presented as an avocation or hobby. Jesus’ demands are presented over and over in the gospels (Matthew 10:37-39; Luke 9:23-26; 14: 26-35). Though He words them differently, perhaps, Luke 14:26-35 presents them most clearly. There are three demands, which when placed together, leave little if anything out. These demands are stated negatively.

“If anyone come to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own soul, he is not able to be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

We are to love Him more than all others. The word “hate” in biblical usage often implies a lesser love. Matthew 10:37 makes this clear. No other human relationship is to take precedence. This includes our selves. My commitment to Him takes precedence over all others.

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me is not able to be my disciple” (14:27).

We are to “carry (our) own cross.” In Jesus’ time, if one saw a person carrying his cross, it meant he was on his way to be executed by one of the cruelest methods ever devised, and was not coming back. (As one of my students, a former prison guard said, “Dead man walking!) The implication is that this is to be a willing act. In 9:23, Jesus says “take up his cross.” The cross means a definite resolution to follow Christ, all the way to death, if necessary. It’s not an on again off again thing (9:62), nor is it as many interpret some affliction laid on us from outside, like a chronic illness.

“Even so every one of you who does not give up all his own possessions is not able to be my disciple” (14:33).

We are to give up all our own possessions. The Greek word translated “give up,” is usually translated “say farewell” or “say goodbye.” We are to say goodbye to all our stuff! I don’t believe this means giving away all we have, but has the idea of hanging on to it loosely. If we tell our possessions goodbye, we shouldn’t be surprised when they are gone.

Paul’s demands are phrased differently, but still speak of the same definite commitment. I believe Paul is simply restating what Jesus said, for a different audience.

We are to present our whole self (Romans 12:1; 6:13, 19). Paul uses the word “body” in 12:1 as a figure of speech for the whole person. This, he presents as our first and great sacrifice – our “act of worship.” In Romans 6, the analogy is that of slavery. Perhaps the thought here is of the Old Testament “bondslave,” an indentured servant who was to serve up to 7 years as payment for a debt, but who at the end of those 7 years willingly submitted for life out of love to his master.

We are to present our “members” (Romans 6:13, 19). By this Paul means a dedication of those parts of us that we are most tempted to use in sinful acts: our eyes, our hands, our sexual members. Perhaps this is what Jesus is saying hyperbolically when He says: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut if off and throw it away from you … And if your eye causes you to stumble, dig it out and throw it away from you …” (Matthew 18:8, 9).

Though these are demands for a positive commitment, and it should be a lifetime one, there is a need for continual renewal. Jesus says in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he should deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” This should not be used, however, as a justification for a roller-coaster experience. He is not granting us permission to “backslide.”

Paul gives the “follow-through” in Romans 12:2: “And stop being conformed to this age, but be (continually) transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you can prove what the will of God is, the good and well pleasing and perfect.”

This verse uses present imperatives. The aorist tense in verse 1 says simply to “present” our bodies – just do it! Verse 2 speaks of an ongoing process. This process begins with mental renewal and leads to a continuing transformation into the image of Christ, and a non-conformity to this age. This will lead to a proof of God’s will. Paul doesn’t mean here some sort of ability to discern the future, as some read this passage. “The will of God” here speaks of His revealed will. “Prove” has the idea of putting to the test (cf. Luke 14:19 where the same word is translated “try out”). In other words we will try out God’s Word and find out that it works. (See: THE WILL OF GOD, PART 2)

Bill Ball

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