What is a living sacrifice?

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Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

This chapter of Romans instructs us how to live our lives after receiving the mercies of God through His imputed righteousness in the previous 11 chapters. Like the “Shema” we looked at last week these two verses are like the second verse of the “Shema” we give our body, mind, and will to the Lord.


You give God your body (v. 1). Before we trusted Christ, we used our body for sinful pleasures and purposes, but now that we belong to Him, we want to use our body for His glory. The Christian’s body is God’s temple (1 Cor. 6:19–20) because the Spirit of God dwells within him (Rom. 8:9). It is our privilege to glorify Christ in our body and magnify Christ in our body (Phil. 1:20–21).

Just as Jesus Christ had to take on Himself a body to accomplish God’s will on earth, so we must yield our bodies to Christ that He might continue God’s work through us. We must yield the members of the body as “instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13) for the Holy Spirit to use in the doing of God’s work. The Old Testament sacrifices were dead sacrifices, but we are to be living sacrifices.

Verse 1, commands a definite commitment of the body to the Lord, just as a bride and groom in their wedding service commit themselves to each other. It is this once-for-all commitment that determines what they do with their bodies. Paul gives us two reasons for this commitment: (1) it is the right response to all that God has done for us and (2) this commitment is “our reasonable service” or “our spiritual worship.” This means that every day is a worship experience when your body is yielded to the Lord.


You give Him your mind (v. 2a). The world wants to control your mind, but God wants to transform your mind. This word transform describes a change from within. The world wants to change your mind, so it exerts pressure from without. But the Holy Spirit changes your mind by releasing power from within. If the world controls your thinking, you are a conformer; if God controls your thinking, you are a transformer.

God transforms our minds and makes us spiritually minded by using His Word. As you spend time meditating on God’s Word, memorizing it, and making it a part of your inner man, God will gradually make your mind more spiritual (see 2 Cor. 3:18).

You give your will to Him (v. 2b). Your mind controls your body, and your will controls your mind. We could even say, give Him your heart. (Paul’s experience as recorded in Rom. 7:15–21). [I suggest you turn there now and read Paul’s battle.] It is only when we yield the will to God that His power can take over and give us the willpower that we need to be victorious Christians.

As you, through the Holy Spirit, transform your mind; you begin to know the will of God. Knowing the will of God allows you to make decisions based on that knowledge. God’s will is acceptable and perfect. The only way to know that will is to know God’s special revelation to His children. You must study the complete Bible to learn what is revealed of His will. Prayer helps, listening to strong teacher helps but Bible study gives you the tools to prove what God’s will truly is.