The Mercies of God: The Motive to a Living Sacrifice

Romans 12  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Romans 12
This chapter is a great division in this epistle. It begins with the expression of the full result due from the saint, because of all that has preceded it, in the grace of God, set forth in the epistle. " I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." What follows would also show us that however God acts first on individual souls, by His divine method towards them, yet He never sees them out of the connection of the body of Christ, and the building of it up together in the faith, by the varied spiritual helps and gifts of the members.
How we come, through the course of the epistle, to the point to which we are brought in chapter xii is full of interest and instruction. The epistle, it may be said, is, in its general aspect, the theory of grace and salvation, brought in by the mercies of God, on the depth of the ruin and the need of all, and of every man, as guilty before God; and on the way of final condemnation. The course of the epistle has been already marked out by another, so that some repetition will be necessary to bring us to our chapter, and place it in all its force. The guilt of all is the matter of the earlier chapters; and that it is by grace and righteousness alone, through faith, that salvation is given, is the next period in it.
The summing up of the fullness of the dealing of God in grace we find in the last verse of the fifth chapter: " That as sin had reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The security of grace to the believer we find in the last verse of the eighth chapter: " For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." How blessed is the sense to our souls of the marvelous dealing of our God! Fullness and security of all grace in Christ, according to the purpose of God's own will, in the raising up of the soul out of its ruin and condemnation, to life eternal, and complete in resurrection; carrying with it all that the yearnings of the Spirit of God could teach the soul to desire!
The last verse of the fifth chapter, quoted above, declaring the fullness of grace, is taken up in its proper result in the first verse of the eighth chapter: " Now there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," because the law of the Spirit of life made them free from the law of sin and death. This is the perfect deliverance wrought in such a grace. Chapters vi and vii are left to their proper functions, guarding the doctrine given.
From the last verse of the eighth chapter we pass as distinctly to the first verse of the twelfth: " We beseech you therefore," &c. All these places, taken consecutively, form an unbroken cord of divine goodness in the order of the fullness of grace; the first verse of the twelfth chapter being, as was said, the expression of the full result, morally and divinely, due from all that preceded. Such are the mercies! The believer is addressed now in life and capacity; and, as looking always to the fountain of the grace, is besought to offer his body " a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."
It is the power of God, introduced through faith, that works the end of the desirous soul, and gives God the glory. How all the imaginations that would charge the way of God in grace, and His purpose to the saint, with failure, because it is of grace, in forming the soul in restoration to His image and separation to Himself, come to naught before such an exhortation! So made ours, and thus continue the blessings of grace, unto all fullness. "These things," saith the apostle, (1 John xiii,) " have I said unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God." We find the fruit of all the blessed dealing of God ever in the path of faith, from the enjoining believers to reckon themselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to the painful process of dying indeed, as a living sacrifice, and by dying, to live by God our life, and to God; for if we be dead with Christ, we believe also that we shall live with Him.
It is a great fault not to see how God is with us, and not to be using all the power of God by faith, (that it may be by grace,) till every thought is in obedience to Christ, and He lives, not we; having our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
It is difficult for human nature to learn-and it never does learn but by the teaching of God-concerning itself and Himself, that faith is now the only way of God, and that there is no other way that God may be known as all in all. This is evidently founded on the truth that we are under the last dispensations of God's dealings unto life. It includes the fact of the failure of man being total, and the reinstatement of man in new creation, as anything, to be purely in grace, and standing in the power of God. God, in His divine wisdom, saw that this must come in all clearness to men's hearts, and therefore the successive revelations still pointed thither, till this, the last of all, shone out without question. Whatever appointments were made, the living God was all in all; and the 'mystery, that faith in the method of God unto life and salvation, is the established point at which we are. If Paul sends an epistle (1 Tim.) full of the ordinances of order in the Spirit, the "mystery of godliness" is still "God manifest in the flesh," preached, believed on, received up into glory.
Our consciences are set free from the dead works which were of old, whether brought out of the grave of Christ, or manufactured anew by men's vanity. It is the living God we have to do with, and therefore a living sacrifice we have to offer. " I arm myself with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus," " who was put to death in flesh, and made alive in the Spirit."
We who are alive from the dead are awake out of the grave with Jesus; we survey, in spirit, as risen men, the sinful tendencies of the old nature; (while we are still waiting with desire to be clothed upon from heaven;) and in the communion that grace by Jesus Christ brought me into, I judge it and find it judged; I confess and find cleansing. How precious is the manifold testimony and power of the blood of Christ! It is the testimony of death accomplished. The life is before me, shed forth, and the blood, now mine, is the cleansing of Him that is alive for evermore; the Spirit serving to apply, through faith, all the grace in which I stand. From whence the Spirit came, thither must the Spirit tend and lead. Nor let any suppose that the action of the Spirit is sensibly separate from the conscience of the new creature. Christ dwelleth in our hearts by faith. What is born of the Spirit is spirit. With the new creation, therefore, which is of God by faith, the Spirit of God finds a home, and sympathy, and intelligence; for it is of God. Now faith accepts nothing but what is of God; and whatever word of truth in Christ the soul accepts, as of God, bears its fruit. We are begotten again by it. He that has confessed and believed is forgiven. He that believeth on Him that raised up Jesus is quickened by the same Spirit; even as Abraham, given in type, was quickened naturally, being as dead.
If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, because (see margin) of the Spirit that dwelleth in you. All this is of grace by faith. All is of God and not of ourselves, yet of which we are made partakers. Infinite grace! We see how effectually it is ours when we read that the sufficiency which is ours by faith is of God, though we are happy in counting nothing as of ourselves, but rejoice in the hope of the glory of God by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
" Be ye not, therefore, conformed to this world," is still, as the rest of the epistle, the dealing of God with the individual; and " the world " is used in the sense of the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eye, and the pride-the showy, glaring things-which the world delight in; and are all, not of the Father, but of the world. The world means also something more than this, as lying in its general condition in the power of the wicked one; but the above appears to apply to the individual condition of the saint, because the exhortation continues, " but be ye transformed in the renewing of your minds." In fact the image of Christ taking more and more room in our soul, the glory of this shall be revealed, not only as being clothed, (not being found naked,) but revealed " in us." Being a living sacrifice is the foundation to this; and blessed it is to be objects of such an exhortation.
Under such an order of blessing every exercise is to be fruitful of something, and to work such a subjection of our wills as gives to the Spirit the rule of our actions. But the constant sense of being His (and His we are) is necessary to our doing what we have to do to Him and not to man; while it causes the sense of service and of Himself to abide with us. It makes the saint act so as that the Lord will own the works, which shall meet and welcome him when received into the everlasting habitations of the heavenly kingdom, to the glory of God.
But though this epistle is engaged with the dealing of the God of all grace with the individual, yet so large a portion of his character and service is to be formed as a member of the body of Christ (how vain to think to exercise these things in the world) that the apostle could not leave out the saints' place in it. Indeed it seems as if all had been preparation for this; and, if duly waited on, would save the Lord's interference in immediate reproof and discipline. It returns, in the 9th verse, to the personal grace; but it is a divine way on earth, and nothing short of it. The practical form of the injunction in the 10th "verse is much to be noted. The "kindly affection" there mentioned is given in a word applied peculiarly in the Greek tongue to natural and domestic affection. The brotherly love is of heavenly birth. The relationship is from above, and they are children of the Father; hut the family is still here, and the affections are in safeguard. Let each sentence be studied and seen as that which is the saint's way. I question the just translation of " condescend to men of low estate." We have to look to other portions of the word for the full expression of the relationship of the body.
To him that overcometh the departure of Christianity, of his day and time, are the promises made. Affection to Christ and to all that is of Christ, and from Christ, and is Christ's, will be a mark of faithfulness, carrying its sure blessing, (for have we not all gone astray?) and will return full of desire to Christ the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. And lastly, " be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good," which is the fulfillment of the saints' place to the world.