7th September 2023
Read (Romans 12v1)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The book of Romans is nothing short of a gift from God. It powerfully instructs us in our Christian theology and it finishes with a strong call to Christian living. Paul's first eleven chapters ended with a song of praise to God (Romans 11v33-36) and the Apostle opened chapter twelve with the word "therefore" In other words if you're tempted to ask "what good is all this theology?" Paul answers with the practical outworking of God's truth in our lives. Theology, which is the study of the words written about God, should never just be for the mind. If you study the Bible just to know things then you have taken a wrong turn. Theology informs both mind and soul, it impacts our belief and our everyday walk.
Therefore, Romans 12 acts as a pivot, as if Paul is saying "I've explained your theology, now go and live it out" It should go without saying that we are saved apart from works. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nevertheless, faith without works is dead and the reality of a transformed heart should be evident in a Christian's life. It is no wonder then that the Apostle exhorts us in light of God's mercy to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (v1a).
C.T. Studd, a Christian of another age, showed us this connection when he said “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” Indeed! Good theology leads to a sacrificial life.
What does this look like in practice? Firstly, we meditate upon the mercies of God. How often do you contemplate God's mercy? You deserve His wrath every single day and instead He pours out grace, mercy and peace upon you. It is by the mercy of God that He chose you before the foundation of the earth, it is by the mercy of God that He raised you from spiritual death, it is by the mercy of God that He enabled you to call upon the name of Christ and it is by God's mercy that He will surely keep you until the end. We can never divorce the Christian life from the mercy of God and so our response to the Gospel is rooted in the Gospel.
By the mercies of God we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. The Christian is not called to climb upon an altar to be killed like the sacrifices of old. Instead we have been made spiritually alive in Christ. In newness of life we respond to the grace of God by living wholeheartedly for the Lord. We present our bodies daily to the Lord or in other words we present our whole selves. As Christ has caused us to be born again to a living hope, so we respond by living each day for the glory of God and love of our neighbour.
Such a lifestyle is holy and acceptable to God (v1b). This is not to say that you and I are perfect this side of glory - by no means. Yet by virtue of our union with Christ we are considered holy before the Lord and our works are acceptable to Him. The Westminster Confession of Faith is helpful in this matter saying that we only do good works because we have been raised with Christ and enabled by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, even when we are at our best we are still "unprofitable servants" but the Lord accepts our imperfect works because we are united to Christ by faith. This is what a life of "spiritual" or reasonable worship (v1c) looks like. We have been transformed by the Gospel and respond to it daily with a wholehearted commitment to the Lord. So in summary, God's mercy is so great that our only reasonable response is to glorify God and enjoy Him both today and forever.
Good theology should always lead to Christ centred devotion, therefore the Apostle speaks loudly and still declares "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." May it be so to the glory of God!
Q38 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? At the resurrection, believers, being raised up to glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.