I appeal to you therefore, brothers, (and by implication, sisters) by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship… (Romans 12:1)
The apostle Paul wrote to Christians (he calls them brothers, and by implication, sisters) and used the word “therefore” in Romans 12:1. Paul said, “As a result of all that I have written in Ch. 1-11 about the mercies of God, I urge you – as a necessarily consequence, present your bodies as a living sacrifice”.
Notice a few things here:
We are to be living sacrifices
Paul was using the Old Testament temple language. As an Old Testament believer, you would go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship God. You took an animal and the priest would kill the animal as a sacrifice. This would teach you that sin is serious and deserves death. It taught you that only death can remove sin – and pointed forward to the death of Jesus – the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Nevertheless, you presented or offered an animal that died.
In Romans 12:1 Paul redefined worship.
As our worship, we are no longer to present an animal to be killed (because Jesus has died once for all), we are now to present our bodies as living – not dead – sacrifices
That has massive implications.
We worship God wherever our bodies are
We don’t go to the temple, or a place, or church to worship God; we worship God wherever our bodies happen to be. Worship is the whole of our lives lived out in obedience to God.
Phillip Jensen, a great Bible teacher once said,
“Worship is more how you drive to church, than what you do at church.”
Because of what God has done for us in Jesus, we now present our bodies to God in worship and thus we worship God wherever our bodies happen to be. If your body happens to be driving a car, how you drive is your worship.
On Monday, your body might be at work: that’s where you worship God by obeying his commands,
On Tuesday, as a stay home mom your body might be at home: you worship God by looking after the children God has entrusted to your care and persevering in hardship.
On Wednesday, as a retired person your body might also be at home: you worship God by using your time wisely in the service of others and of God and by the way you treat others.
On Thursday, as a student your body might be at varsity: you worship God by applying your mind, being at class, befriending the outsider and by speaking the gospel wherever you have opportunity.
We worship God wherever our bodies are. What we post on Facebook is part of our worship.
We don’t come to church to worship
Nowhere is the New Testament is the word “worship” connected to the local church. According to the New Testament we come to church to serve, to encourage, to hear, to sing, to prayer, and to build, but never to “worship”.
However, we do worship at church because our bodies are at church. As we serve others, sing, and listen to God’s word that is worship; but it’s only a small part of our worship.
At our church we don’t call the band the “worship team”, we call them the “band” or the “music team” because we are all called to be worshippers. If you’re a Christian, you are by definition part of the worship team.
We also don’t call the leader of the band the “worship leader”. Jesus is our worship leader. Jesus presented his body as a sacrifice for our sins, so we can be forgiven and have life forever. We can come into God’s presence because of Jesus’ death for us, not because of our singing. Jesus is our worship leader.
At the end of our services we don’t say, “Our time of worship has come to an end” because it hasn’t. Our worship has just started as we take our bodies out into the world. We might say, “Our time of corporate worship has come to an end”.
It’s no good having a great emotional experience on a Sunday, if you’re not living your life in worship Monday to Saturday.
John Stott wrote,
“No worship is pleasing to God which is purely inward, abstract and mystical; it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies.”
You can go to church or a great Christian conference and have great music. The lights can be dim, you could sense God’s love, you could get very emotional, you could dance around, you could raise your hands and cry; but if you don’t obey God with your body the next day, it is useless. In fact, it’s worse than useless, it’s hypocritical.
I’m not against dancing, or crying, or emotions, or raising your hands when you sing. Actually, the gospel is so amazing it should make us emotional, and cause us to raise our hands, and cry at times, and dance when it’s appropriate. But don’t think that’s your worship. It’s only a very small part. Jesus doesn’t just want our hearts; he wants our bodies and minds and souls and strength.
We worship because of God’s mercies
We don’t worship and present our bodies to God to earn God’s favour. No, we present our bodies to God because God has already shown us his favour by his grace (cf. Romans 1-11). That’s why there is a “therefore” in v1.
All other religions say, “Do this” in order to earn God’s favour. What you must do could be good deeds or transcendental meditation. But you must do something. Christianity says that God has shown us favour in Christ, therefore we present our bodies as living sacrifices.
If you do present your body as a living sacrifice, it is (v1) “holy and acceptable to God”.
Don’t think that your singing at church is your worship. Worship is much greater that what you do during 1 hour on Sunday.